This summer I’m in only “0.5” of three singing weekends out at Tanglewood — though that’s mostly by design, as the residencies for many conflicted with my work schedule or the ability for my wife to participate! Trade-offs must be made when your career is not a singing one.
That said, I think I win, because as far as I’m concerned, I’m singing for the best of the 3 concerts: the all-Brahms concert on August 14th. (Okay, the Berlioz was pretty darn good too; please humor my sour grapes approach to my wife’s singing out there.) We’re singing three shorter pieces: Shicksalslied (Song of Fate), the Alto Rhapsody, and Nänie.
We had one short all-men’s rehearsal for the Alto Rhapsody just before the July 4th holiday. Literally, about 15 minutes total time — for the small handful of us who are not in the series of Stephanie Blythe concerts earlier in the week and are just doing the back half of the residency, it’s inconvenient but understandable that we would have to drive into Boston for this. John’s advice to us was straightforward, as we sounded pretty good. “Don’t sing behind the beat” was his primary advice, as we tend to fall in love with the Brahmsian harmonies and linger too long through the cadences. He reminded us that there is very thick orchestration that we’ll have to sing through, and one way to do that was to keep our vowels more closed and focused.
We’ll polish that one up tonight with another early rehearsal before we dig into the other two. I’ve got the Rhapsody memorized at this point and I’m halfway through memorizing the Shicksalslied. I’ve sung it once before, almost 9 years ago with Lexington’s Masterworks Chorale under Allen Lannom, but I don’t remember falling in love with it so much back then. (Maybe because Allen Lannom, for all his musicality, was rather a bully of a chorus director!) This time, I’m loving the German Requiem-like turns of phrase, the perfect stereotypically Brahms cadences, the interplay between the orchestra and the chorus, the word painting, and the transition in singing character from the Elysium of the gods to the gloom and doom of us mortals who have no such retreat from fate. We’ll see what else is said tonight as we clean these up, but as far as I’m concerned… yay Brahms!