Michael R. Anderson
The bulk of the program was devoted to Schubert’s songs and secular vocal pieces.
A year ago, the musical and marital couple of Martha Fischer and Bill Lutes organized a "Schubertiade," a party inspired by the musical and social gatherings that the friends and admirers of Franz Schubert organized around him. On Friday, Jan. 30 at UW's Mills Hall, the couple wisely ventured a second such event.
The music was entirely by Franz Schubert, and the selections were organized in a rough chronological sequence tracing the composer's musical development.
Fischer and Lutes -- who can alternately (or even simultaneously) both sing and play -- were joined by two familiar faculty vocalists, mezzo-soprano Cheryl Bensman Rowe and baritone Paul Rowe (another married couple) plus four young singers who are past or present students of the UW School of Music: soprano Jennifer D'Agostino, tenors Daniel O'Dea and Joshua Sanders and baritone Michael Roemer. Drawing upon such young talent was a wonderful idea. Further additions were two guest instrumentalists: Violinist Leslie Shank is a recent visiting faculty member here and cellist Norman Fischer is Martha's brother. With Lutes, the two guests performed a rarely heard early trio by Schubert. Martha and her brother played the extended "Arpeggione" Sonata. Martha and her husband also played two Polonaises for piano-four-hands (a social form in which Schubert excelled).
The bulk of the program was naturally devoted to Schubert's songs and secular vocal pieces, a total of nineteen of them. There was a goodly mix of the most familiar with less frequently encountered items. D'Agostino was simply gripping in Schubert's astoundingly precocious setting of Goethe's "Gretchen at the Spinning-Wheel," composed at age 17. And Rowe powerfully conveyed the grim drama of "Der Erlkönig" (on another Goethe poem). On the other hand, Fischer and Lutes clowned about delightfully in "Heidenröslein."
It would be unfair to single out just these items. All the singing was beautiful, linguistically confident and artistic. But a special treat was the performance of one of Schubert's rarely heard parlor cantatas, written for the amusement of his social circle. This was "Der Hochzeitsbraten" (The Wedding Roast), a little musical drama about a couple who poach a rabbit for their wedding feast and run afoul of a gruff but susceptible game warden. D'Agostino, O'Dea and Roemer deliciously acted this out.
The considerable audience indicated that these Schubertiades should become an annual tradition.