Thursday, 29 January 2009

Opening of Quasthoff residency at Barbican

10 January 2009
Dan acted on impulse and got us 2 tickets to Haydn's Creation at the Barbican. Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, RIAS Chamber Choir, Rene Jacobs conductor, soloists Thomas Quasthoff, Maximilian Schmitt, Julia Kleiter.

Dan has now bought tickets to ALL the concerts in Quasthoff's Barbican residency series. This makes up for the fact that every time he's been in London we either didn't know or I was doing something else, and to cut a long story short I haven't heard him sing live since that magical evening in 1989 in Passau.

The programme promised an "elementally thrilling" moment at the words "let there be light" but actually it didn't happen like that at all. I didn't think the choir were half as alive as the soloists especially the incomparable TQ who seems to inhabit every note and every word, and make it come alive as well as exploring his fabulous range with humour and charm. Reviewers often note his ability to make contact with the whole audience and we weren't disappointed. He injects personality into the whole performance without being showbizzy.

The Adam/Eve duet was lovely, v tender. I noticed that reviews of this concert were pretty sniffy about the orchestra and direction though not about the singers.

I have to say I do find a little Haydn goes a long way.

Fashion note: the RIAS ladies have to wear hideous brown lurex dressing gowns over their black dresses. The soprano looked charming in a very pretty white strapless gown with a lovely swooshy skirt. Quasthoff looked exactly like himself of course though he does look older... We met some friends in the interval who said they'd heard he'd been ill. I do hope he's not going to fall by the wayside this year as we have booked four more concerts!
The tenor Maximilian Schmitt is perhaps a protege of TQ?

The evening in Passau: it was a chance thing, we were staying there on holiday with Dan's parents and decided to go to hear a Bach concert in a church. Then this extraordinary young man came in. A body cruelly wrecked by the greed and carelessness of a big pharmaceutical company (who eventually paid a pathetic sum in compensation to German victims). A heartbreaking contrast with that rather handsome, sensitive face and the powerful chest. He hopped up on a stool with tremendous self-assurance, and opened his mouth... and my insides just melted! I'd never heard a voice like it. We all knew we were in the presence of a divine talent. Even my father in law was deeply moved and said afterwards, "It's as though God said to this man, 'I'm taking everything from you but leaving you with this one great thing'."

But it wasn't God who took Quasthoff's arms and legs: it was the arrogance of human science ("we've tested Thalidomide quite take your pills, girl and don't worry your pretty head about the consequences for your baby" and the greed of human nature: ("a pill for morning sickness! Bonanza! Quick, get it on the market!"). God gave him the voice, if you like, and his intelligence and musicality, to make up for the crime of humanity.

So we can say very smugly, we knew all about Quasthoff before anyone in the UK, because this must have been only a few months after he won the 1988 ARD music competition which set him off on his career. Also it was only a few months after we married and so this artist is bound up with important memories for us. Plus he has very nice twinkly brown eyes. I suspect he is a good flirt.

After the concert Dan went to the shop and bought me 2 of TQ's recent albums, Die Stimme and Watch What Happens which is a very syrupy collection of ballads like "I've grown accustomed to her face" and "What are you doing the rest of your life". I like being a soppy middle-aged person.

I've decided to make this my "Learn to Love Lieder" year and I'm listening to tons of Schubert and Schumann on my Zen.

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