« »

2000-04, La Monnaie magazine, Interview – English translation

Recital : Simon Keenlyside

Marc Zitzmann for the magazine of Théâtre de la Monnaie, Brussels

April – June 2000

Your Grandfather was a conductor for the LondonPhilharmonia Orchestra, your father was one of the violinists of the Aeolian String quartet. Is there a link between your childhood full of chamber music and your current liking for melody ?

How come a baritone should feel differently about being interested in Haydn’s string quartettes?

Actually, I have an unrestrained love for melody, that was originally passed on to me by my teacher John Cameron during my training in Manchester, and since then it’s never stopped increasing. My repertory has several hundreds of works – including many by Schubert and Schumann, Strauss, Wolf and Debussy, curiously nothing of Brahms, but on the other hand many rare pieces of work by Britten, Rachmaninov, Tchaïkovsky…

I have worked for ten years with the pianist Malcolm Martineau, we met us when we were students. He is above all a friend : the interpretation of Lieder is a joy I share with friends – and more recently with Graham Johnson. For example, we record without any technical assistance. In other words, we set up a pretty structure, we adjust the apparatus and we make music together. If a company like the recording, we give it to them and they publish it. In this way we have published 3 CDs, with works of Schubert, Schumann and Strauss; soon I’d like to make two other CDs, one of Schubert and another of French songs. It is clearly totally different than a recording for Deutsche Grammophon. It is more like a document that illustrates which pieces of music fascinate me at one point of my life – often according with my ideas of that time, nearly like a diary.

Thus that shows the importance of the text…

The importance is considerable. Nevertheless, I don’t like singers that accent and enhance every word. I used to think this was a quirk of British singers only, but the German soprano Christine Schäfer told me the German singers often do the same. For me, the whole (words and music) is the most important: where is the climax? Which developments bring the climax about? What weight do you give to different episodes? For all that, the melodies aren’t always just little, pretty and precious. There is a large evolution, starting from the tender Nachtviolen of Schubert, to Wolf’s Prometheus, a piece of music that gets enormously violent, all are linked.

That favours the diversity which my teacher had already emphasised and which characterises my current repertory. The ideal for the Lied, as for most vocal music, is a carefully measured mixture of text and sounds. The sound itself has already given information that could in some cases confirm the text, and in others contradict it. I remember the recording by Solti of Das Rheingold that I listened to when I was student. At that time, I didn’t understand the German language but when I heard Gustav Neidlinger (in the role of Alberich) sing “So verfluch’ich die Liebe” (I curse the Love), I completely understood – just from the sound – that is was something absolutely nauseating,  ignoble and properly inhuman. Between the sounds and the words, there are – in theory – many possible combinations. But in practice, it often becomes a nightmare.

Have you got a precise yearly schedule? Do you know exactly how many times you’d wish to sing something?

No, I don’t. I take things as they come to me. The best would be a mix with two thirds of operas and one third of recital. But it can’t be planned, at the most it could be desired.

Previous interview 2000-04, La Monnaie magazine, interview in French >>>
Next interview 2000-01, Opernglas, "Charmer with principles" >>>

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment