Arts and Entertainment

Williamson and Quitslund draw in the crowds with Schumann’s Loss lieder

Baritone David Williamson sings a poignant farewell to Puget Sound in a performance that opens with songs by C.P.E. Bach, Mozart and Schubert, and concludes with Schumann’s beautiful “Dichterliebe” (“A Poet’s Love”), 16 songs set to Heine’s great love poems.

“1840 is considered Schumann’s Jahr der Lieder (year of song),” Williamson said. “It was the year he was finally to marry Clara Wieck – after overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles.”

Schumann wrote “Dichterliebe” when he was unhappily separated from the woman he loved, and love is the theme of Heine’s poems – love unrequited, often thwarted, on occasion joyously fulfilled – but always a powerful and potentially destructive force. Heine writes:

I wept in my sleep, dreaming that you lay in the grave.

I awakened, and the tears were still running down my cheeks.

I wept in my sleep, dreaming that you were leaving me.

I awakened but continued to weep for a long time.

I wept in my sleep, dreaming that you were good to me.

I awakened, and even now my tears are flowing like a torrent.

Singing bittersweet songs of love and loss seems a fitting way for Williamson, who performs on Bainbridge tomorrow in a recital with pianist James Quitslund, to close out his years in the Northwest.

Williamson, who first performed in BPA productions and has spent the last six years pursuing his doctorate at the University of Washington, hopes to write his dissertation in Dresden – the center for the 18th century German art songs that are his subject – while he teaches for the International Baccalaureate program there.

“My career trajectory takes me away from the U.S. university tenure track system,” Williamson said, “because I’m not really a scholar; I don’t like to publish.

“But I would never have known it if I hadn’t taught in the International Baccalaureate program in Santa Fe.”

The IB program, founded in Geneva in the 1950s to educate embassy children of high school age and now run world-wide, attracts aggressive, dedicated students Williamson finds more challenging to teach than the non-majors he instructs at UW.

“They are really the equivalent of junior year American college students,” Williamson said.

IB course content challenges the instructor as well; Williamson will teach music analysis, theory, history and performance.

For what is likely to be his last performance on the island for a while, Williamson combines song and study, sharing with the audience his insights into the music on the program’s first half.

“What I find interesting is that this selection brings composer, poet, audience and performer into an intimate alignment I don’t see happening elsewhere in 18th century art songs.” Williamson said.

“If nothing else, I’m passionate about these songs.”

* * * * *

The BPA Chamber Music Series presents baritone David Williamson and pianist James Quitslund perform German songs at the Playhouse 4 p.m. Jan. 20.

With works by C.P.E. Bach, Mozart and Schubert, Quitslund and Williamson trace the evolution of German poetry and music from the 1770s to the first full maturity of the Lied in the Vienna of the 1820s.

The second half of the evening is devoted to Robert Schumann’s “Dichterliebe,” 16 Lieder set to Heinrich Heine’s love poems.

Tickets are $14/adults and $10/seniors and students. Call 842-8569 for information.

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