Vancouver Chamber Choir

Schubertiad! A Viennese Song Cycle

Date and Venue 25 January 2008 @ 8pm | Ryerson United Church, 2195 West 45th Avenue at Yew, Vancouver

Reviewer Ed Farolan

I've always enjoyed and continue enjoying, through all these years as a reviewer, the performances of the Vancouver Chamber Choir under the direction of Jon Washburn. He has a certain style about him, and in this particular concert, he looked like a Viennese gentleman, with his spic-and -span tuxedo and his elegant, nicely trimmed white beard, so much like European concert conductors.

This particular concert of around twenty songs from the music of Viennese-born composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828) was truly enlightening and educational. Washburn is indeed a scholar, and as a college teacher. I find his programme notes really erudite, almost pedagogical. This is no surprise as he has been a college and university teacher for a number of years.

For language learners, the English translation of the original texts (in this case, German) is surely something to hang on to for reference. For instance, Schubert's most celebrated song, "Standchen" (Serenade), was unknown to me from the lyrical standpoint until tonight.

The melody is well-known, and has been played by orchestras through the ages. But the lyrics by Ludwig Rellstab were a new and delightful discovery: "Leise flehen meine Lieder/ durch die Nacht zu dir;/ in den stillen Hain hernieder,/ Liebchen , komm zu mir!" (Softly my songs cry/ to you through the night;/down into the silent grove,/come to me, my love!)

The choir did a magnificent rendition of this song, as it did with "Gott ist mein Hirt," Moses Mendelssohn's translation of Psalm 23"The Lord is My Shepherd". The women's choir members, in golden blouses and black skirts, sang these verses beautifully. However, the song that received the most applause was "Gretchen am Spinnrade" (Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel), with lyrics from Goethe's Faust. Soprano Lorraine Reinhardt gave a passionate performance that impressed the audience.

The last four songs, "Lebenslust" (Zest for Life), "Begrabnisslied" (Burial Hymn), "Quartett" (Quartet), and "Der Tanz" (The Dance) brought a fitting end to this Viennese Song Cycle by this prolific composer who, in his lifetime, composed more than 600 songs.

© 2008 Ed Farolan