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Richard Strauss at the Millbrook Library

Music Review
by Kevin T. McEneaney
Sun Jan 13th, 2019

Celine Mogielnicki

Saturday afternoon featured “Songs of Richard Strauss” sponsored by the Millbrook Arts Group and the Catskill Jazz Factory with soprano CelineMogielnicki and pianist Renana Gutman. Celine is an American who has been living in Berlin for the past two-and-a-half years. Asked why she decided to re-locate to Berlin, Celine replied that Berlin was such a welcoming and open city to those involved in the arts. She has perfected her German and has undertaken to devote her life to Strauss whom she fell in love with as a teenager when she attended with her mother Der Rosenkavalier at NYC Metropolitan Opera.

While Strauss was the author of many orchestral works and over a dozen major operas, Strauss biographer George R. Marek judges that “Even if in future generations all of Strauss’ major works should become obsolete—which is not likely—even if our taste in orchestral music should change radically, Strauss will remain immortal because he wrote such songs as ‘Morgen,’ ‘Traum durch die Dämmerung,’ and ‘Ständchen’.” Citing over three of Strauss’ over forty songs, may appear to be an overly emphatic statement, yet Strauss’ songs are perhaps more beloved today than even in his lifetime. One reason being the sheer beauty of the music, as well as the effortless blend of simplicity with difficult technique for any singer, also the profound psychological depth of the songs.

Mogielnicki now specializes in German lieder and will be returning to Maryland later in the year to sing with a performance of a Schoenberg string quartet. Her German appeared perfect in diction and phrasing as she filled the library with powerful gradations of emotion, whether of love or nostalgia, seemingly free of the intense technique required.

Most of the songs she sang can be found in Jesse Norman’s album Four Last Songs on the Phillips label. That Mogielnicki feels comfortable with competing with Norman says something about her ambition. Her rendition of “September” and “Morgen” was superb. Pianist Renana Gutman played an adroit piano transcription of the famous violin solo from the beginning of Ein Heldenleben to supply a breather. Mogielnicki sings with such enthusiastic ardor that she communicates the pleasure of song with authority; she finds such inspiration in Strauss that she confesses to be in love with his spirit, as if she would have liked to replace Strauss' wife Pauline. Mogielnicki said that she knows of no other composer who so profoundly understands women from youthful romance, mature motherhood, and a more elderly perspective of life in its stages of nostalgia and coming to terms with mortality.

Mogielnicki is working on a dramatic project to dramatize the love story of Richard and Pauline with song and ballet, something we would all like to see performed somewhere nearby, yet it most likely will first appear in Germany where the songs of Strauss remain a beloved national treasure. For more about Celine, go to