Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Wunderschonen Monat Mai|
Actors: Barbara Sukowa, Reinbert Deleeuw, Schnberg Ensemble
Director: Cherry Duyns
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
2008 Grammy Award Nominee Best Small Ensemble Performance!!! A special production featuring German actress Barbara Sukowa, who sings and performs the new song cycle adapted and re-composed for orchestra by Reinbert de Leeu... more »
Schubert and Schumann never sounded like this before!
T. Fisher | 01/28/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I really enjoyed this video version of "Im Wunderschoenen Monat Mai" (The Lovely Month of May) by the Schoenberg Ensemble and actress/singer Barbara Sukowa. But if you expect historically accurate performance, you'll be very disappointed. This is a modernized, stylized, cooled-up performance of new arrangements of songs by Schubert (mostly from "Die Winterreise") and Schumann (mostly from "Dichterliebe").
The music is identical to the CD version (Im Wunderschönen Monat Mai) -- you can follow the CD track list throughout the video performance. The video is pretty clearly a lip-synced version of the CD. Sukowa is not microphoned, and the lip-syncing is not always perfect -- moreover her voice clearly has a timbre that couldn't be achieved in the setting shown on the video. That is a closely miked voice run through some serious studio equipment. The video is clearly for visual and dramatic, not musical effect, but it works. Production values are high and lighting is used with a dramatic flair.
Barbara Sukowa is a well-known actress in Germany, and starred in several Fassbinder films. She brings her acting talents to bear in her singing, which is actually somewhere between singing and narration. The original Schumann/Schubert song melodies are often NOT respected. When the melodies are followed, they are not in the typical soprano-at-the-piano style. The singing is more reminiscent of Marlene Dietrich than any other performer I can think of -- like a seductive songstress in a vintage nightclub, walking around to the tables and making the men feel as if she's flirting with them as part of the act.
When she is not singing, but speaking, I was actually reminded of William Shatner's musical performances, although that comparison may be unfair to Ms Sukowa. Shatner doesn't sing -- he (over)acts the lyrics in spoken form over a musical background. The idea here is similar. Sukowa's performance is much more serious, and really is wonderful, but on occasion the drama does go over the top in a Shatneresque fashion, and this is accentuated all the more by the dramatizing in video form. But I would say it is just all the more enjoyable for that.
All these songs -- 21 of them in a "3 times 7" structure -- were newly arranged for chamber ensemble with 14 musicians including strings, winds, horn, piano and harp. The arrangements by Schoenberg Ensemble conductor and pianist Reinbert de Leeuw are so different from the originals that they are often more like new compositions altogether -- certainly this is true for the work as a whole, which is really by de Leeuw based on Schubert and Schumann.
Within each set of seven songs, they are generally arranged so as to blend into each other seamlessly -- again reinforcing that this is not straight Schumann or Schubert. Not for old-style Lieder purists. It's stylized, but it's good.