Johannes Weisser is among the foremost young baritones on European stages today, and also celebrated for his Don Giovanni recording with René Jacobs. Now he is ready with his debut solo-CD; visiting the songs of his fellow Norwegian Edvard Grieg. Weisser’s insightful and strong readings sets a new standard for the Grieg songs.
Grieg and the “secret intentions of the poet”
“For me it is not about making music, but first and foremost about doing justice to the secret intentions of the poet”, Grieg at one time explained. He hit bull’s eye already in his first opus of songs Melodies of the Heart; including such immediate and eternal hits as I love but Thee! and Two Brown Eyes. The poetry of H.C. Andersen is undeniably somewhat rich by today’s standards. Weisser and Rastogi do not repress this pathos, but rather incorporates it into a natural, impulsive musical expression.
The Vinje songs
Grieg’s songs to the Norwegian poet O.A. Vinje (1818-70) are from a time of great personal and artistic troubles. In this powerful poet Grieg found a soul mate and an artistic inspiration, and many of his best known songs are from this collection. Says Weisser: “These songs combine lines requiring a broad vocal format with the very simple and immediate melodies and a transparent accompaniment. The vocal is often written so that it invites to an operatic approach, while at the same time the music and the unmistakable inspiration from the folk music invites to a very simple style of singing. I have tried to approach these songs without too much distance, so that I might retain the soreness, enthusiasm, power and longing that both Vinje’s texts and Grieg’s music holds.
Born 1980, Weisser today has an international career equalled by few other Norwegian artists of his generation. 23 years old he made his debut at the Norwegian Opera. These days he performs at Théâtre de La Monnaie Brussels, Royal Danish Opera, Komische Oper Berlin, Salzburg Festival, with conductors like René Jacobs, Fabio Biondi, Rinaldo Alessandrini, Philippe Herreweghe both in opera productions, concerts and recordings.