Live preview: Sylvia Schwartz, Bernarda Fink, Michael Schade and Thomas Quasthoff

Four esteemed singers bring down the house with music meant for the parlor.

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Thomas Quasthoff

Thomas Quasthoff Photograph: Harald Hoffman / DG

This week, Carnegie Hall takes the haus out of Hausmusik, as sopranos Sylvia Schwartz and Bernarda Fink, tenor Michael Schade and bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff perform in a stately auditorium works intended for 19th-century parlors. The foursome has been touring across the U.S. and Europe with three complete song cycles—Schumann's Spanische Liebeslieder, and Brahms's Liebeslieder-Walzer and Neue Liebeslieder-Walzer—as well as four of Brahms's earlier vocal quartets.

Both composers sought inspiration for these works in popular poetry, and set the lyrics to music reflecting stylistic trends in Northern Europe. (There's an additional connection between these particular works: Brahms wrote the Liebeslieder-Walzer while courting Schumann's daughter Julie, then penned the sequel after she rebuffed his advances.) The music was simple enough for amateurs to perform during social gatherings, with four-hand piano accompaniment offering the bourgeoisie opportunities to canoodle on a shared piano bench.

But what's happening at Carnegie is no amateur hour: Four celebrated singers, each of whom could pack a hall, mine modest if expertly crafted works for nuanced descriptions of love, jealousy and even homesickness. Quasthoff, Fink and Schade are all lauded singers with successful concert careers; Schwartz is a photogenic young soprano who'll take on several leading roles at the Vienna State Opera next season. They'll be joined by venerable accompanists Malcolm Martineau and Justus Zeyen—on separate pianos.

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Carnegie Hall; Mon 25;

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