Die schöne Müllerin

Date: October 2, 2013
Performers: Christoph Genz and Cornelia Herrmann
Location: City Hall Concert Hall, Hong Kong.

Die schöne Müllerin may be an immature work by Schubert, but it is filled with wondrous musical delights. One delight stands out in particular: the motif of the love for the color green. Schubert first defines the motif, a major chord arpeggio, in “Mit dem grünen Lautenbande” (#13, bar 16): “Nun hab das Grüne gern”, before the young apprentice identifies his rival; and basically repeats it in “Die liebe Farbe” (#16, bar 10): “Mein Schatz hat’s Grün so gern”, when his death becomes inevitable. Between the two songs comes the fateful revelation, and to mark the shift in drama Schubert pens a tonal shift from Bb major to B minor. But interestingly, the composer preserves motif’s integrity by emphatically recoloring the motif in “Die liebe Farbe” with a major third (the D# in “mein Schatz”). This development lends credence to the notion that, with the young Schubert ready to maintain some thematic cohesion, his first extended song cycle is more sophisticated than meets the eye. Yet when Christoph Genz attempted “Die liebe Farbe” at City Hall this evening, he flubbed at least one of the emphatic thirds, flatting the note so much so that the notion of a motif became nullified. Genz was similarly uneven for the rest of the evening, and lent few support to long notes, especially at the start of long lines, such as in “Die liebe Farbe”. As a stage performer, Genz did not exhibit undue mannerisms, and seemed quite consistent in the spatial placements of his sightlines: he almost always looked to the audience’s left when singing about the maid, looked to the back of the hall when staring at death, and meandered his sightlines left and right when singing about or voicing the brook. Yet facially he never looked the part of a young and clueless apprentice in love, and his lawless ponytail in the style of bad boy Steven Seagal did not help the cause. Cornelia Herrmann was tentative all night, and, after missing a few notes in the rapid ending of “Ungeduld” (#7), visibly showed her displeasure. Herrmann’s sluggish playing also dragged slower Genz’s voice in the two quick-paced revelations (#14-15), and gave the impression that she was unfamiliar with the music. The performance was a disappointment, but the real disappointment was Hong Kong, whose seven million-strong population could barely fill up one fourth of City Hall’s 1400 seats.

Christoph Genz.

Christoph Genz.

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