Forces of nature in concert

Columns | Vienna Review | December 2009 / January 2010

I have just come home from a mythical concert – the kind of concert you hear about the way you hear about unicorns – an evening of duets done by Barbara Bonney, Angelika Kirchschlager, and Helmut Deutsch at the Konzerthaus.

This was a concert that made me forget that parts of Pakistan are increasingly ruled by the Taliban, that Iran is building up nuclear capability, and that bonuses are back on Wall Street with no one having learned anything from the economic crisis we are not even yet out of. It was a concert that made the world seem whole and a cheerful place to be.

And it truly was miraculous – it provided a mass healing of all the rheumatic patients who usually attend concerts in the Mozart-Saal in the cold months. Only six coughs the whole evening.

Kirchschlager was her usual extravagant self, singing, as one of my former voice teachers used to say, "from the inside out." A force of nature.

At the piano, Deutsch was even more than usual, a frame for the singers. With the Steinway grand open on the full stick, he enveloped them with sound, supporting them exquisitely, unobtrusive yet present, as he was in the background for the bows.

Most touching though was Bonney who has come through several very poor years vocally. With a voice not quite what it was earlier, somehow I like it better now. What it has lost some of the ping has been gained in a kind of gentleness, a fragility as well as a maturity it did not have before – and far more power to move.

In the second encore, "D’un coeur qui t’aime" by Gounod, she began alone singing with such fervency it was almost unbearably moving, leaving at least one rather hardened concert-goer with tears streaming down her face.

Then after bringing the performers back for a few more rapturous bows, the audience rose, and wreathed in smiles of what can only be described as joy, gathered up their things and flowed in perfect harmony out of the concert hall.

- Elisabeth Cassels-Brown

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