Singing like a garden of flowers. (Classica /Frankreich No 171, April 2015)

Tribute by André Tubeuf

Anne Schwanewilms

Singing like a garden of flowers. The German soprano first studied horticulture ! She has built a model career (Strauss, Wagner)

To begin. She delayed her career for a few years, she wanted to be a landscape gardener. Anne Schwanewilms is no doubt the only singer who will give you the latin names of the flowers in the bouquet presented at the end of a recital. Singing prevailed over horticulture, but, for once, the secret garden of a singer is truly her own garden. Hers slopes down to the river. From its flowers she has taken the shades, the nuances of light and shade in her art of expression (in French as well: Debussy). But it is something altogether sensuous and rare which goes to your head, a whole bouquet, pleasure and almost intoxication of perfumes when in ‘Ich atmet einen linden Duft’ of Mahler’s Rückert Lieder  she enumerates the variations of the lime tree, this sweetness of taste of delicate lime blossom. Entrancing and charming!
She has a little of the Lorelei in her own self, her golden hair draped over her shoulders. Being of another world, which Schumann might have set to music.

Her beginnings were obviously safe. Only her spoken voice, deep and warm (but never harsh) reminds you that she started as an alto. In the church choirs, child and adolescent she sang everything which was low from Bach passions to Delilah but once she had chosen the theatre, it was towards the mezzo then Wagner as if naturally that this great golden haired lady was guided, so that one might say put on this earth for the Weiala of Wellgunde in the Rheingold. She quickly became Gutrune at Bayreuth and, in the german country, Elsa or Elizabeth the Wagnerian flaxen haired maidens. From where, more unwisely Senta. And why not Brünnhilde soon?

An instinct within her has reared up. Her voice was originally low from the beginning (and her feet on the ground, firm with roots like flowers) . But her singing, also golden, rises at the summons of light and unfolds acutely, elegaically and lyrically. She did not have as of right her portion of pages and cherubs at her early beginnings like others, much harder for her. So, already having achieved the hochdramatische, she will never go back. On her path has come the right alternative. A youthful Fidelio, a Euryanthe of moon and milk at Glyndebourne. And from there, all that is late romantic in music and singing and first of all a rediscovery of Schreker. 

Her twofold break was ‘Der Ferne Klang’ in Berlin and ‘die Gezeichneten, the major event for her in Salzburg 2005. At the same time she sparkled in Strauss, a poetic marriage between music and words with nuances and semi shades, a sort of  perpetual delectation of mixed harmonies (like Schwarzkopf with whom she has more than a garden in common). Her Arabella, her Marschallin have a studded sweetness in their vocal sensitivity and refinement which is unique nowadays, and more so with the Empress something both voluptuous yet chastely luminous which hovers, not of this world , then escapes magically. 

Such a complete scenic incarnation would no doubt be impossible without a passionate exploration (and laborious, a true labour of gardening) of the landscapes of german lieder. It was with Hugo Wolf that she first found happiness naturally, in the marriage fusioned between notes and words, this school of modulation. As if born and innate from these, proceed to Schumann. Eichendorff rather than Heine gave the keys to her alone – you need only listen to her Mondnacht.

Her own Landscape.

But how to proceed from this complexity which for her is so simple, to return to Schubert, in his way quite innocent and at times primitive to be on Earth, to sing directly and thickly. She is still looking for her own landscapes  which will come soon.In the meantime she has little difficulty in seeking the more subtle and sensuous of Debussy in his ‘Proses Lyriques’. More vaults…

Having not followed the normal channels and with fewer appearances in the theatre, now only is she asserting her claim to and obtaining what at first was not given to her. Roles where you blossom in the pure and simple lyrical pleasures of singing. Almost snorting like a horse at expectations, it is not Isolde but Hanna Glawari from ‘The Merry Widow’ which is finally coming to her at an age when others prefer to forget that they can no longer do it, and tomorrow Rosalinde in the ‘Bat and Ball’. As Marguerite in ‘Faust’, she will see herself receive the bouquet from the hands of Siebel and in ‘The Damnation’, her baptism into Berlioz. She likes French for the vowels, the shading, the modulations. A Dido is maturing in her when the richest September flowering will blossom.

She follows her own path like no-one else. She likes neither planes nor crossing oceans. She prefers the train, to have her world around her, her husband, the recital pianist (with his own family); a complete cocoon at the heart of which the singing is resplendent and blossoms better ( and in autumn this will be more succulent again.).

Her career moves at its own pace, or rather, does not seek to be a career. Nowadays there is nothing rarer. But there is still no better recipe either. From where does the unique Schwanewilms hallmark emanate every evening? At one moment cosy and intimate like the fireside with an elder sister who is a little fay. But what elixirs as well! What rare flavours, for the most jealous of gourmets.


Translated loosely


(Classica /Frankreich No 171, April 2015)