Hebrides Ensemble teams up with cabaret artist for Restless Love
- Carol Main
- 10 November 2017
A unique evening of classical music, with songs by Schubert and Schumann sung by Meow Meow
At first glance, cabaret artist Meow Meow – who captivated full houses at this year's Edinburgh International Festival – and German lieder by Schubert and Schumann sound an unlikely, if not impossible, pairing. However, in Dutch composer Reinbert de Leeuw's transformational reimagining of the romantic texts of Schubert's 'Winterreise' and Schumann's 'Dichterliebe' – 'A Poet's Love' – the intimacy of emotion becomes something raw and guttural, and Meow Meow is just the person for the job.
With two performances of Restless Love, orchestrated for 14-piece classical forces, Hebrides Ensemble presents this darkly compelling take on love and loss for the first time in Scotland. 'It's a piece I've wanted to do for a long time', says artistic director, William Conway. 'The question was who to do it with, but we always had Meow Meow in mind as someone who would really get under the skin of it. When you meet her, she is actually a very quiet person, and you wouldn't expect what she can do on stage, but she is a stage animal, a huge extrovert.'
Reinbert de Leeuw has structured 21 songs by Schubert and Schumann – including the title number 'Im wunderschönen Monat Mai' – in three groups of seven (similar to Schoenberg's 'Pierrot Lunaire') and although their music is very clearly present, he has reworked it into a music-theatre piece in which the words are sometimes sung, sometimes spoken, or delivered in the sprechgesang that is a vocal technique somewhere between the two.
Sharply focused, direct and earthy, 'it's expressing the emotions in an exaggerated way,' says Conway, 'and is a legitimate interpretation of the music that has inspired it. If Hebrides is about anything, it's about keeping people guessing, and not following patterns. Just as long as Meow Meow doesn't do any crowd-surfing this time.'