Daniel Behle's Ode to his Birthplace!
Heads up, here comes Daniel Behle. Life’s never boring with him. He is one of those multitalented German tenors, and is equally at home in the concert hall, at a recital or in the opera house – from the Baroque to the 21st century.
As a Hamburger born and bred, he loves his home city. And there are plenty of arias and songs for classical tenors that express that love. This programmatic CD puts Daniel Behle’s emotions into perspective, reflecting a strong affinity with the North of Germany – with all the passion a tenor can muster.
Daniel Behle – An Interview with Anne Novák
Moin, Herr Behle.
Moin, Moin! (the traditional greeting in northern Germany)
You live in Switzerland these days … What do you miss most about your home city of Hamburg?
That’s obvious: the water.
You grew up in Hamburg. Cards on the table: How Hanseatic are your really?
My mother is from Styria in Austria, my father’s from the Rhineland. I was born in Niendorf (a suburb of Hamburg), but I can hardly call myself a pure-bred Hamburger.
Why is Hamburg the loveliest city in the world?
Hamburg is the Venice of the North. For me, it just has the right mix. Lots of green open space, lots of water. The Alster lakes and the River Elbe. The canals, the jetties, the Jungfernstieg, Blankenese and so on – there are lots of reasons.
The album title “Mein Hamburg” sounds very personal. Do you give us a peep into your own family photo album on it?
The title “Hamburg Songs for a Classical Tenor” might be a better description. It’s a new way of honouring my home city in music, hopefully without stereotypes, and of adding a fresh nuance to it. That’s why we dismissed the accordion right from the outset.
What was the musical incentive for you to do a Hamburg album?
First and foremost I wanted to do a humorous album, one on which I could participate as a composer, arranger and lyricist. I wanted something new, something that would be challenging for the musicians and the audience. Singing about my home city gave me the emotional basis for this very personal project which I’ve been working on for three years.
How difficult is it to re-arrange a German classic like “Auf der Reeperbahn nachts um halb eins” for the classical voice?
I had to change some of the songs to the extent where the piano trio with a classical singer sounded like the ideal formation. Such arrangements need to be challenging enough for us as musicians without destroying the substance of the original works. It was a lot of work, finding just the right tone. “Auf der Reeperbahn nachts um halb eins” is the opener to the album. Despite the G flat major key, the modulation, the high B flats and the “tipsy” strings I do stay fairly close to the original.
So it’s worth listening closely to discover some hidden references?
Definitely. Some of the newly written lyrics do give a reference to the original text. There are several plays on words. From a musical perspective I tried to find motivic cross-references – as I did with my arrangement of Die Winterreise. In the first trio solo piece I employed the keys H-A-B-G to signify “HAmBurG”*. You can hear the blast on the ship’s horn and in the counterpoint you can detect the melody from the prelude.
And so on.
How does Hamburg sound for you?
The ideal of freedom, so often sung about, is what makes Hamburg what it is. When you come to Hamburg you get the feeling: The world is at my feet. You take a deep breath and life is good. That’s what Hamburg sounds like.
Do you convey this outlook on the album?
I certainly hope so. At any rate, we had a lot of fun during the recording sessions.
What’s your preference: a sweet pastry or a fish roll?
The sweet one.
Hummel hummel or mors mors?
Do you prefer a boat trip round the harbour or a paddle boat on the Alster lakes?
Rain or shine?
I’m fine with a rainy day.
Which football team do you support: HSV or Sankt Pauli?
What a question: St Pauli!
State Opera House or the new Elbphilharmonie?
Right now, still the State Opera.
The best thing about the north is ...
* In German music notation, H = B, whereas B = B flat.
** “Hummel hummel – mors mors” is a form of greeting attributed to the people of Hamburg, though not generally used by them!