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Sophistication lives!

Koerner Hall
03/08/2012 -  & March 9, 2012
The One cannot kiss alone Tour
Max Raabe (Baritone)
The Palast Orchester

M. Raabe (Courtesy of the Royal Conservatory)

Max Raabe and his Palast Orchester were reviewed on this website by Arlene Klotzko when they appeared in Newark, NJ in November, 2011. I share her enthusiasm and will just add a few thoughts and details about the current North American tour.

The tour uses the title of their latest CD, “Küssen kann man nicht alleine”, released for the English-speaking market as “One cannot kiss alone”, consisting of songs written by Raabe and Annette Humpe. The title song was performed in Toronto, but the rest of the concert gave us a generous sampling of the group’s repertoire of more than 500 items. There were a couple of purely instrumental items, but Max Raabe sang all the rest, sometimes with help from band members - for example, Friedrich Hollaender’s “Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuss auf Liebe eingestellt” (“Falling in love again”) was delivered by vocal quintet.

ConcertoNet.com is a classical music website and the question arises as to whether this group’s music falls into the classical category. It is really jazz of a certain type, namely swing, which had its heyday in the 1940s and 50s. Raabe trained to become an operatic baritone but found his musical niche while still a student at age 24 in 1986. He thus joins a host of pop and jazz musicians who have formal musical training. There was one item from the classical canon in this performance: Franz Lehár’s “Dein ist mien ganzes Herz” from Das Land des Lächelns - but even this was rendered in a subtle but effective swing style. Other items ranged from the whimsical (“Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?”) to more soulful numbers: Boulanger’s “My Prayer”, Cole Porter’s “Night and Day”, and Jerome Kern’s “Smoke gets in your eyes”. There were many German songs dating up to 1932, plus French and Cuban songs.

Songs like these would sometimes be performed as encore bonbons by “serious” recitalists, and more recently have begun to make their way into the main body of a recital - Dawn Upshaw has championed Vernon Duke, for example. Classical singers are never amplified, however, and Raabe and his ensemble are - but not egregiously, I am happy to report. The other technical element of their performance, the lighting, is extremely deft, even witty. Herr Raabe’s brief introductions are delivered deadpan with always a clever twist; he comes across as someone who has never once in his life broken out into a sweat (horrors!)

The 13-member orchestra performs without a conductor and its members also partake in slightly goofy byplay that provides a counterfoil to Raabe's laconic presence. Everyone is smartly dressed and groomed. The entire audience assumes an air of sophistication.

Whether you think what they do is classical or not, Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester put on a very polished and entertaining show.

Michael Johnson



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