Brenden Gunnell, Tenor: Schubert’s “Die Winterreise”
Celebrated American artists Brenden Gunnell, tenor, and Oresta Cybriwsky, pianist, perform Schubert’s masterpiece at the Marigny Opera House. At 7:00pm there will be a half-hour talk introducing the work; the performance begins at 7:30pm. Suggested donation: $20.00.
Schubert’s Winterreise, is rightly considered the greatest single song cycle in the catalog of German lieder. It stands alongside the works of Shakespeare and the paintings of the great masters as an artistic treasure. Challenging for both singer and pianist, this setting of the 24 short poems of Wilhelm Müller was regarded by Schubert as his greatest work. On inviting his friends to hear Winterreise for the first time, Schubert is recorded as having said: “You will soon hear and understand. Come to Schober’s and I will sing a cycle of awe-inspiring songs. I am anxious for your opinion of them, for they have affected me more than any of my earlier songs.” His friends were quite dumbfounded by the black mood of the songs, and Schober said he liked only one, ‘Der Lindenbaum.’ To which Schubert said, “Wait. You will learn to appreciate them.” For audiences today, unfamiliar with the songs, this same advice holds true. Winterreise can seem a little intimidating as it spins a tale of alienation, loss of love and a journey through a bleak winter landscape. Emotionally and musically demanding for singer, pianist, and audience alike, the piece defies casual listening and in return rewards the listener by the profound and moving effect of these melancholy songs. As Schubert’s friends later agreed, “More beautiful German songs probably do not exist.” a sentiment shared by many today.
Schubert began setting the first 12 songs of the cycle in 1827, completing the cycle in the final months before his death at the age of 31 in 1828. Although there were sporadic performances of individual songs it was not until the early 20th Century that this entire work was reintroduced to the public, becoming a favorite of audiences and singers alike.
Brenden Patrick Gunnell
Brenden Patrick Gunnell is a young American “Heldentenor” who recently made his debut as Hüon de Bordeaux in a new production of Weber’s Oberon with the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. He has performed leading roles in the major opera houses of Europe as well as on the concert stage and recital hall, specializing in the songs of Schubert, Mahler, Britten and Strauss. In September 2015, Gunnell jumped in at short notice for the title role in The Dream Of Gerontius at the Laiszhalle Hamburg with the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Jeffrey Tate. The concert was highly acclaimed and Gunnell was celebrated by the press as “A sensational tenor! The young American unites heroic radiation with lyrical warmth and made the soul’s journey into the beyond a moving experience. “(Hamburger Abendblatt).
Recent opera roles include Perdillo in Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio at Glyndebourne, Maler in Berg’s Lulu with the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Hüon in Weber’s Oberon with the Bavarian State Opera, and the Cologne Opera, Erik in The Flying Dutchman with the Teatro Petruzzelli in Bari, and Loge in Das Rheingold with the Goteborg Opera. The press was especially enthusiastic about Brenden Gunnell’s portrayal as Peter Grimes at the Staatstheater Saarbrücken: “His tenor has power, steel and fire in abundance – but he also handles the moments of the collapse Grimes with most fragile tones. Overwhelming! An exceptional singer …” Saarbrücken Newspaper, March 14, 2016.
Upcoming engagements include the role of Judas in Sally Beamish’s Passion According to Judas with the Orchestra Age of Enlightenment in Edinburgh and London and with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in San Francisco. He will also appear at the China National Centre, Beijing as David in Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg, and in Liszt’s Faust Symphony with the London Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Antonio Pappano. With the Hamburger Symphoniker he will appear in Mahler’s Das Lied Von Der Erde, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, and Elgar’s Dream Of Gerontius. Additional engagements include Frank Martin’s Golgotha in Basel and in the Tonhalle Zurich, Mahler’s Das Klagende Lied with RAI Torino, Mendelssohn’s Paulus at the Tonhalle Zürich, and Mahler’s 8th Symphony with the Dortmund Philharmonic Orchestra.
Gunnell’s main focus in recital singing includes cycles of Britten, Mahler, and Schubert, as well as the songs of Richard Strauss. At the Richard Strauss Festival in Garmisch Partenkirchen, he sang a Liederabend with pianist Wolfram Rieger performing works of Britten, Mahler and Strauss. On CD, Gunnell recently appeared in the Complete Songs for Voice and Piano of Richard Strauss, singing 32 songs including Krämerspiegel, Cäcilie and Heimliche Aufforderung, accompanied by Malcolm Martineau. He has performed at the Eppaner Liedsommer with Malcolm Martineau and gave the Norwegian first performance of Hans Zender’s Winterreise.
Born in 1983 and raised in Michigan, USA he received his Diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music in 2006 and studied with Mikael Eliasen and Joan Patenaude-Yarnell. In Europe he continued his study with KS Brigitte Fassbaender and since 2012 he has studied with Tenor Robert Gambill.
Oresta Cybriwsky, Pianist
Born in Springfield, Massachusetts, she began piano studies at the age of five with her father Prof. George Cybriwsky, continuing her studies at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore with degrees in piano and voice. Following this she became the pianist for the Greg Smith Singers in New York with whom she toured and recorded extensively. Smith once observed: “She doesn’t play the piano. She makes music.”
From 1978-1980 she received a Full Study Grant for Liedgestaltung (German Art Song) from the Deutschen Akademischen Austauschdienst with Prof. Konrad Richter. Throughout her career both as a as pianist and vocal coach, she has worked with such notable artists as Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Brigitte Fassbender, and Christa Ludwig. In addition to touring extensively in Europe, North and South America, and Asia, she has a total of 17 CDs of solo piano and vocal music to her credit.
Cybriwsky has been highly praised by the press for her collaboration with leading singers of German Lied. In commenting on her performance of Schubert songs, the Rheinische Post notes: “Schubert’s piano part is designed to have an equal share in his works. In the introduction he sets up the expected moods, describes the backdrop of the events he is going to tell us about, sometimes he paints whole pictures. This pianist is equipped with a technique rich in variability of tone production and a refined pianistic style, which is able to express the composer’s intention accordingly. In the collaboration with the singer she reduced the volume of her instrument gently, just enough for the voice to resonate unconstrained, without the accompaniment ever becoming dominant. ”
She has been described by the press as “…an accompanist of incredible precision, sensitivity and brilliance or – accordingly – of restraint and intuitive awareness. Not a single note, not a nuance attuned to the singer was missed. In the end we had gotten so used to the unrivaled collaboration between voice and instrument, that we wished this most intimate music- making at the heart- level would never stop.” Der Bund, Bern
The Stuttgarter Zeitung notes “ The unfortunate lot of an accompanist is to always be mentioned last. However, in the case of the pianist Oresta Cybriwsky, this is not at all to be taken deprecatingly. With her striking musicianship and secure technique, she was not only a solid accompanist for all the soloists, but also a musically sovereign co-creator of the songs.”