On Thursday, May 24, at 5 pm, the West Tisbury library hosts a recital of 19th century European art songs of loss and love sung by baritone David Behnke, accompanied by pianist David Rhoderick. The centerpieces of the program are Schumann’s “Dichterliebe” (performed in its original 20-song version) and Chopin’s “Ballade No. 3, Op. 47” for piano. Behnke is a graduate of the masters-degree opera program at the Yale School of Music, and Rhoderick was music director and organist at the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury and a fellow of the Royal Schools of Music.
According to a press release, Schumann’s Dichterliebe, “A Poet’s Love,” is perhaps the pinnacle of the German Romantic song cycle. Unlike its two antecedents (Franz Schubert’s “Die Schöne Müllerin” and “Die Winterreise”), in which a coherent story is told through a body of individual songs, “Dichterliebe” embodies both a textural and harmonic unity throughout. Equally important, where in Schubert’s works the piano provides accompaniment to the voice, in “Dichterliebe” the piano becomes an equal partner in interpreting the emotional moment of the poetry.
Concerning Chopin’s “Ballade No. 3,” since the late 18th century, the term “ballade” has been used in classical music to denote a one-movement instrumental piece with lyrical and dramatic narrative qualities, and Chopin used the title for four important, large-scale piano pieces. According to the release, Schumann wrote in 1842, “Chopin was the first to apply the word ‘Ballade’ to music.” Chopin’s inspiration for the “Ballade No. 3” is probably Adam Mickiewicz’s poem, “Undine.” Mickiewicz (1798-1855) is widely regarded as Poland’s greatest poet, and was a strong nationalist inspiration to his younger compatriot.