An occasional blog about things related to Arkansas, Vienna, 1930's, public policy, growing up in Fayetteville, little known people in history, Sen. Fulbright, Birch Bay, and German immigration, plus books about these topics and other interesting subjects. Certainly, the blog is eclectic (at best).
Spanish Songs in the Basement of Vienna's Mozarthaus
A friend sent an email telling me that a free concert was
being held on Wednesday (April 4) at the Bösendorfer Room of the Mozart
House, featuring Spanish songs for voice, piano, and guitar. Three things about
the concert interested me: First, it was
in a venue that I had never seen. Second, it promised music with which I am
unacquainted. Third, it was free. I decided to go.
Dr. Helen Tintes-Shürmann (mezzo-soprano), an experienced opera singer who now teaches at the Vienna Conservatory and heads the International Spanish Music Center. [http://tinteschuermann.org/ism/ ] She has held master courses on Spanish song in the United States and China, as well as Vienna. Born in North Dakoka, she has a Doctor of Music from Northwestern University. She started her study of Spanish music as a pianist at Minnesota State University.
Alejandro Picó-Leonis (pianist), who was born in
Spain and completed his music education with an MA from Hunter College of CUNY.
In 2002, he made his debut at Carnegie Hall and has played at other prestigious
venue throughout the world, including Vienna. He has recorded several CDs. Some
of his music can be heard at this site: http://www.picoleonis.com/
(guitarist), who was born in Denmark. He has studied guitar with several
European masters and now plays professionally throughout Europe. He specializes
in the music of Spain and Latin America. See http://jonasskielboe.com/web/Home.html
The concert was performed largely by four women who attended
the master class, plus one young pianist. They were accompanied during the
first half of the concert by Skielboe on guitar and during the second half by
on piano (a Bösendorfer). The
concert also had guest appearances by Dr. Tintes-Schürmann and baritone David
Robinson, an opera singer and professor from Texas.
The Bösendorfer Room provided an intimate setting for the
concert. It is located in the deep basement of the Mozart House, which is a
five-story building constructed in the eighteenth century. The building’s name comes from fact that it contains
the only Vienna apartment in which Mozart lived that still exists. He had a
large apartment in this building, which is a few steps from Stephenskirche,
from 1784 to 1787. The first three floors of the building are now part of a
Mozart museum. See more about the Mozarthaus at http://www.mozarthausvienna.at/en/
Bösendorfer Room in the Mozart House
The music venue is located in a deep vaulted basement
constructed of brick. It resembles many
of the old Vienna Wine Cellars spread throughout the city. This large cellar has
been nicely retrofitted to provide an attractive stage and good acoustics. It
has seating for about seventy people. See http://www.boesendorfer.com/en/bosendorferhall.html
The Master Course students were an international group.
Their short bios, plus information about each of them on the internet, showed
that three of the singers have professional careers with some noteworthy
training, impressive accomplishments, and good experience. One of them, Maha
Marrawi (mezzo-soprana) is a tousled redhead who was born in Syria. She earned
a masters degree at Kunstuniversität Graz and has performed in several
operas, including Franz von Suppés “Fatiniza.” This opera was recorded
and released as a CD.
The fourth singer, Stephany Peña, from Miami, was a bit younger
than the other three. In her early 20s, she is studying solo voice at the
Vienna Conservatoriun and has experience singing at venues in the United
States, Columbia, and Austria. In Fall 2012, she will be in the Choir of the
Vienna State Opera during its tour of Japan.
All four of these singers had some very nice moments in this
concert, displaying high quality voices and engaging personalities. It was a
pleasure to be hearing them sing in a smaller venue, which, of course, is a
wholly difference experience than sitting in the Konzerthaus or Musikverein. In
these settings, somehow, the vulnerability of the singers and the complexity of
their art are more apparent. Here, singing is not a technical exercise by a
distance person, but an individual effort that depends on talent, personality, discipline,
The young pianist, Edwin Zúniga Flores, merits special
attention. He is fifteen years old, but has been performing since he was six.
He came to Vienna when he was eight and has been studying, playing, and
composing since then. His fluent playing of a lyrical excerpt from “La boda de
Luis Alonso” by Gerónimo Giménez (1823-1894) was one of the
highlights of the evening. This stoic young man seems to have the makings of a
Edwin Zúniga Flores
In all, twenty different excerpts from longer pieces or
songs were sung and played during the concert. The composers included Federico
Lorca (1898-1936), Enrique Granado (1867-1916), Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999), Manueal
de Falla (1876-1946), Xavier Montsalvatge (1912-2002), Alberto Ginastera
(1916-1983), Joaquín Turina (1882-1949), Geróimo Giménez (1854-1923), Francisco
Barbieri (1823-1894), José Serrano (1873-1941), Pablo Sorozábal (1897-1988), Federico
Moreno Torroba (1891-1982), Ruperto Chapí (1851-1909), and Manuel Penella
(1880-1939). I admit that I have never heard of these composers, and as far as
I know, have never heard this music before, even though I should have.
With the lack of wide-spread knowledge of Spanish composers and
their music, the work of the International Spanish Music Center to train
singers and other musicians to perform this music seems to be valuable. I
appreciated the enjoyable evening of Spanish music provided through this Master
Class and wish it – and all of the performers at the concert – good fortune in
the future. I hope that through their efforts the music they sang becomes more
widely appreciated and performed.