A Study in Contrasting Recitals

By Barry Kempton

Last week our Schubert Club concert season got underway with two recitals: an International Artist Series performance in the Ordway’s 1900-seat Music Theater and a Schubert Club Mix performance at Bedlam Lowertown (capacity 190 – at least in our configuration).

I found both recitals immensely satisfying and my intent in today’s blog is not to favor one over the other. Instead, I’d suggest that the week highlighted the commitment in our 2012 strategic plan to celebrate classical music in a broad variety of approaches and venues.

For those who missed one or both of last week’s recitals, our guest artists on Tuesday evening in the International Artist Series were leading American baritone Nathan Gunn and collaborating pianist Julie Jordan Gunn. We were treated to a mixed program of German-language and American art song performed exquisitely and sensitively by two musicians supremely accomplished in their delivery and collaboration. Three evenings later we were entertained by Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe, a young and spirited piano duo at one of St Paul’s newest venues, Bedlam Lowertown.

Both performances were satisfying, both pairs of musicians communicated the beauty, passion and spirit of the music they performed wonderfully.  And yet the events had a different feel, a diversity The Schubert Club should celebrate – in my opinion.

Tuesday evening at the Ordway was formal, classy, attended by an audience which for the most part, came to hear one of America’s great baritones of our day sing art songs by Schumann and Schubert, Barber and Ives.  Many knew much of the music they heard and judging by the ovation, they were not disappointed.

Friday evening at Bedlam, on the other hand, was far less formal, the venue, lighting and seating layout gave the evening a more edgy ambiance.  Having a bar in the room (closed during the actual performance, but still there were a few inevitable bar-related clinks and crashes) changes the atmosphere from reverent admiration into more of a club feeling.  Indeed, towards the end of the recital, Liz Roe had at least some of the audience singing along.

I’m really, really curious to know what people thought of both evenings.  There were certainly people in the audience who attended both – a testament to the wonderful and loyal support we have for The Schubert Club.  My hope (in a strange way) is that people didn’t enjoy both events equally.  The evenings were conceived differently, and it would be natural for music lovers to have preferences about the delivery of music they love.  We’ve been presenting traditional recitals for over 100 years.  Schubert Club Mix on the other hand is still in its infancy – in spite of Greg Anderson’s credible case that their Friday evening recital program and our venue harkened back to the spirit of Franz Liszt’s 19th century recitals.

Our challenge at The Schubert Club should be to present quality classical musicians to as diverse a range of interested audiences as we can.  And one way to do this is to vary our venues and the ambiance of our presentations.

Please share your comments about either or both concerts below.