From Thomas Pasatieri, who set the Sieben Lehmannlieder or the Seven Lehmann Songs, I recently received an email. These songs are inspired by Lehmann’s poems, written originally for voice and piano and also orchestrated by Mr. Pasatieri. Here’s what he wrote: “Dear Gary, The seven poems are: Ich bin allein auf Bergesgipfeln; Wie lieb’ ich diese klare Stunde; So hort’ ich wieder deiner Stimme; In Flammen starb dein Bild; Wie schon ist dieser tiefe Schlummer; Narzissus; Die Welt scheint ganz aus Glut gesponnen. Theodore Presser publishes Sieben Lehmannlieder and the translations for each poem are in the front of this book. Thank you, Thomas Pasatieri.” And I have just located the premiere recording sung by Lehmann student Judith Beckmann with the composer at the piano. The place: “Lehmann Hall” at the Music Academy of the West. The date: August 6, 1988, still the centennial year of Mme Lehmann’s birth. There are the words and translations from the original booklet that accompanied that performance, but I don’t have them at this time. Here’s a review from the premier performance in 1988:
MUSIC REVIEW : Pasatieri Songs Premiere in Santa Barbara
BY JOHN HENKEN
AUG. 8, 1988
The world of the art song is one of quirky contradiction, an intimate empire of sound and word. Saturday evening, its capital could well have been Santa Barbara.
A variegated audience of students, Montecito gentry and other interested parties crowded Lehmann Hall at the Music Academy of the West for a program celebrating three generations of art-song performance. Lotte Lehmann, who died in 1976, was remembered in her centennial year with a recital by Judith Beckmann and six young singers of the current Academy crop.
Most important, Lehmann was also honored with the premiere of “Sieben Lehmannlieder,” settings by Thomas Pasatieri of seven of the late singer’s poems. This song-group also joins past, present and the near-future, at least, for it is sure to be picked up by other recitalists as soon as available.
Many singers will come to it from curiosity about the texts. Lehmann’s poems–mostly rhymed and classically structured, though some are in a type of free verse–seem characteristic effusions on common German Romantic subjects, with an emphasis on very sensuous imagery.
The music, though, should carry the set in the repertory past the initial surge of interest. On one level, Pasatieri’s score is a perfect reflection of the texts, set in rhapsodic rushes in a sort of ruffled tonality not far removed from that of Hugo Wolf or Richard Strauss.
But Pasatieri–who has created significant opera, film and television scores–adds subtexts, only some of which are implied in Lehmann’s words. Faint echoes of Schumann and Strauss mingle with an extravagance of musico-emotional gesture verging on sardonic parody.
The results are big songs, songs with roiled depths as well as swift surfaces. As such, they will be grateful vehicles for big singers.
Beckmann, an Academy faculty artist, would seem to be such a singer. Certainly she commands a big soprano, though a bit pinched on top and far from fresh Saturday. She takes interpretive chances and pulls no expressive punches.
Pasatieri’s melismatic raptures and disjunct punctuations, often lying cruelly high, make a technically forbidding assignment. Beckmann met the musical demands expansively, but memory lapses left some passages only vocalises and brought her pianist to the accompanist’s nightmare of vamp-until-ready in the sixth Lied.
The accompanist, though, was Pasatieri himself. He supported Beckmann handsomely, despite a stuffy instrument with a few oddly buzzy notes.
Prefacing the Lehmann songs were student performances that made eloquent testimony to the Academy’s standards. Jill Soltero, Christine Abraham, Jacque Zander and Charlotte Hellekant brought disparate degrees of vocal development, but uniform clarity and assurance, to Schumann’s “Frauenliebe und -leben,” neatly accompanied by Eldon Little.
Baritone Wei Long Tao, supported by Terry Spiller, and tenor Peter Lurie, accompanied by Victoria Kirsch, tackled Schumann’s “Dichterliebe” with strength and conviction.
Gwendolyn Koldofsky, a longtime Lehmann colleague, coached the students and accompanied Beckmann in the final encore, Schubert’s “An die Musik.” Beckmann and Pasatieri also reprised the fifth Lehmann song.