Brahms: Ein kleiner, hübscher Vogel
Since my upcoming Wolf Trap concert features four singers and two pianists, it seemed crazy not to open the program with the cornerstone work for those forces: Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltzes. Normally I shun the obvious, so I briefly considered delving into the four-part writing of Szymanowski or Schoeck or Schreker. After about 40 seconds I came to my senses. Some pieces are evergreen, and the Liebeslieder are at the top of that last.
When Joseph Li and I worked on them last weekend, evergreen seemed too weak a description. “Good Humor truck” is more like it, a freezer-full of irresistible treats whose appeal is practically addictive. Each waltz is different in character, ranging from slow dances to dapper quick-steps to aggressive ones that have the razor-sharp drive of a mazurka. I knew they would be a good way for the Wolf Trap cast to bond with each other, and with Joe and me. Playing and singing this Brahms work is like having a sweet love affair. As you rehearse the Liebeslieder, you begin to feel that you are in a room with the people who matter the most to you, a beautiful musical intimacy.
Here’s my (current) favorite, “Ein kleiner, hübscher Vogel,” sung and played here by a sterling roster of musicians: Edith Mathis, Brigitte Fassbänder, Peter Schreier, and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, with Karl Engel and Wolfgang Sawallisch at the piano. Deutsche Grammophon clearly spent some money on this project. They’re great…but I bet we can get this piece to sound even sweeter and more charming!