An Evening of Songs from the Romantic

Robert Schumann’s Dichterliebe Op. 48 (The Love of a Poet) song cycle is a momentous work that makes up a core part of the song cycle repertoire. Dichterliebe encompasses the painful journey of unrequited love, from the first hopeful blooms of love all the way to the final stages of closure. The text, which is taken from selections from Heinrich Heine’s Lyrisches Intermezzo, has pain in every syllable, and Schumann’s music translates the 16 short poems into quiet, yet tormented musical reflections.

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Tenor and lecturer at the UCSI Institute of Music Mr Tan Chee Shen together with pianist and director of the UCSI Institute of Music Prof Dr P’ng Tean Hwa performed the song cycle as well as Franz Liszt’s 3 Sonnets by Petrarch with great emotion and expression at the recent faculty recital on 2 July 2015.

A characteristic that vocalists have that instrumentalists do not, is that they have the aid of lyrics to convey what they are feeling to the audience. This was magnified in Mr Tan and Prof P’ng’s performance. Every word had meaning, every word led to the next and every word was felt so intensely that we the audience were pulled along to feel and experience all the emotions they felt on this journey of unrequited love.

“There was a full range of emotion, and you could tell that Mr Tan and Prof P’ng made a detailed analysis of the lyrics and interpreted every word. They really brought out the emotion in every word,” – Sophia Ng, 3rd year IMus cello and vocal student.

Franz Liszts 3 Sonnets by Petrarch were different from Schumann’s Dichterliebe in that they were much more outwardly and declamatory. Everything was on a larger scale, especially the dynamics and the piano accompaniment.

In his opening introduction, Prof P’ng said that the piano was just as important as the voice in the German Art Song, often completing the vocal line and finishing cadences. This could be heard in Dichterliebe. However, in 3 Sonnets the piano had soaring melodies and peaking climaxes along with the vocalist.

A moment that stood out came in the last song of the night – the third Petrarch sonnet I saw angelic virtue on earth where the poet describes all that he sees on earth – Mr Tan’s articulation and expression gave the audience a glimpse of everything the poet saw. The result was a tear-jerking, tender experience that was a magical end to a magical night.

This article was written by Andrea Sim, 1st year student of the Foundation in Music program.

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