Mezzo-soprano Solgerd Isalv and pianist Jonas Olsson have been in demand as a voice and piano duo for many years.
The two artists gave their first recital as a singer and piano duo while still students. Since then they have been continually deepening their musical collaboration and developing their love of song together. A focal point in their repertoire – which also includes many contemporary works – is German Romanticism.
In the following description, the two artists present three programs from the field of German Romanticism with various points of focus.
Vienna in 1900
The time immediately after the turn of the last century was in many ways a landmark in Western cultural history. Musicians, artists, writers, scientists and intellectuals came together for a creative exchange – especially in Vienna. This program presents the diversity of Viennese musical life during this time.
Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911), who was recognized as a conductor in his lifetime, composed many songs in addition to his symphonies. The Rückert-Lieder, with which our program begins, are among his most-performed works.
Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871 – 1942) was also a central figure in the musical life of the time, not least as the composition teacher of Schönberg, Korngold, and Alma Mahler. His operas, songs, and string quartets – which were largely forgotten after his death – have since experienced a renaissance. The six Maeterlinck-Lieder from 1910 – 13 reflect Zemlinsky’s characteristic musical language.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897 – 1957) was a singular talent and broke through as an artist at an early age. His great opera Das Wunder der Heliane was composed at the same time as Drei Lieder of 1924. The latter shows complex harmonies and the highest demands on singers and pianists. Traditional tonality is gradually relaxed in this piece, but is not quite given up. Around 1909 both Arnold Schoenberg, as well as his students Alban Berg and Anton Webern, departed from tonality completely.
The transition to atonality are impressively shown in both Alban Berg’s (1885 – 1935) Vier Lieder op 2 as well as Arnold Schönberg’s (1874 – 1951) important song cycle Das Buch der Hängenden Gärten.
A. Zemlinsky Maeterlincklieder Op.13
E. W. Korngold Drei Gesänge Op.18
A. Berg Vier Lieder Op. 2
A.Schönberg Das Buch der hängenden Gärten Op.15
Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866)
From the many poets and writers of German romanticism a few stand out. Their works were used again and again by composers as a basis of their songs during their lifetime as well as after. This program is dedicated to the work of the German poet, translator and orientalist Friedrich Rückert (1788 – 1866). Rückert spoke over 40 languages and was one of the most important experts in Persian and Arabic literature. The poetry collection Aus den östlichen Rosen from 1821 is a tribute to the 14th-century Persian poet Hafez, who had previously inspired Goethe’s West-Östlichen Divan.
Franz Schubert’s (1797 – 1828) compositions of the same year are some of the most beautiful songs. Four of them are at the beginning of our program. Liebesfrühling, a piece from a collection of love poems from the year after, inspired numerous composers, including Clara (1819-1869) and Robert Schumann (1810-1856). Married young, they released 12 songs together: three by Clara and nine by Robert. From this we made a selection but retained the basic idea of presenting the songs of the two as a unit.
A rarity are the five Rückert songs by Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949) from 1900. These songs are a late romantic delight for singers and pianists as well as for the audience.
In December 1833, Rückert’s six children contracted scarlet fever. Three year old Luise and five-year Ernst died. The 428 poems of the Kindertotenlieder collection are among the most moving works of German literature. Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911) set five of them to music. A selection from Mahler’s two Rückert cycles forms the conclusion and highlight of the program.
Ancient Greece, the center of our western culture, developed around the myths of gods and heros. Temples were built in honor of the gods, festivals celebrated, sports competitions held, and plays and arts were created and cultivated. In this program we wish to introduce some of the mythological personalities musically.
In 1769 Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809) composed a solo cantata for voice and pianoforte about the Cretan princess Ariadne, who was abandoned by Theseus, founder of Athens, after his rescue. During Haydn’s lifetime, the work was a great success and was performed, among others at the royal houses of Europe.
Around 1817 Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828) composed several poems about classical myths. Schubert’s friend, poet J. Mayrhofer, fascinated by Greek mythology, was his great inspiration. The 11 stanzas of Ceres Klage form a counterweight to Haydn’s solo cantata. Ceres has lost his daughter to Pluto and desperately seeks help from Zeus. In the work, the composition of which took eight months, Schubert confidently guides us through the harmonies in aria and recitative.
Hugo Wolf’s (1860 – 1903) Goethe songs from 1888 – 89 bring Christianity into our program. Through the exchange with other cultures Greek mythology transformed itself. The Greek mythology also influenced early Christianity, which Christianity later turned against.
Our program ends in 1906 with a selection from Richard Strauss’ (1864-1949) Opus 56, in which Christian and mythological ceremonies meet – the cultures move and influence each other!
J. Haydn „Arianna a Naxos“, Hob.XXVIb:2
Good to know
The length of the programs is about 70 minutes with an intermission.
Individual wishes can usually be considered.
A written program with song texts is recommended. The material for this is provided.
The duo works according to the SYMF pay scale guidelines for freelance musicians.
+46 (0) 73-3904925
Jonas Olsson studied with Hans Pålsson at the Gothenburg Music School where he made his debut in 2007 with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand. After a scholarship at the International Ensemble Modern Academy in Frankfurt am Main he studied contemporary piano music with Pierre-Laurent Aimard at the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne from 2011 to 2013. Mr. Olsson is a soloist and chamber musician throughout Europe, Asia and North America. He has had several solo appearances at the Lucerne Festival (Boulez: Répons and Sour Incises under the composer’s leadership; Messiaen: Des canyons aux étoiles).
In recent years a notable series of concerts took place with Mr. Olsson including the complete piano sonatas by Pierre Boulez at the KLANG Festival 2015 in Copenhagen and a portrait concert with a piece by Rebecca Saunders at the Aldeburgh Festival 2016. Jonas has been a pianist and accompanist at the Norrland Opera in Umeå since 2016. (Listen)
Solgerd Isalv was born in Råneå, Norrbotten and studied classical singing at the University of Theater and Music in Gothenburg. Her first engagements were at the Skåne Opera and the Gothenburg Opera previous to her debut in Germany in the title role of The Rape of Lucretia at the Kammeroper Schloss Rheinsberg.
From 2014 – 2017 Solgerd Isalv was engaged as a soloist at the Staatstheater Nürnberg and sang many of the significant roles in her fach. She was praised by critics in particular for her stage presence and nominated by the magazine Opernwelt as the Best Young Female Singer in 2015. Today Solgerd Isalv is engaged as a soloist at Staatstheater Darmstadt and is pursuing an international career as a concert singer.
Ms. Isalv has a wide repertoire ranging from baroque to romanticism to contemporary music, impressing audiences with her exceptionally versatile and flexible voice. Among other accomplishments she participated in six world premieres and toured with the ensemble EGG in Germany.
Solgerd Isalv has won scholarships from such institutions as the Richard Wagner Association of Sweden, the Swedish Music Academy and the Ministry of Swedish Culture.