Opera + Classical Music Reviews

Breslik / Katz @ Wigmore Hall, London

22 July 2018

Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall (Photo: Benjamin Ealovega)

Those who admired the Slovakian tenor Pavol Breslik’s Don Ottavio in the ROH Don Giovanni will have been delighted with this performance of Die schöne Müllerin, since the singing was equally dramatic and cleanly phrased, although some of us might want a little more sweetness at certain moments. Breslik and his accompanist are of one mind, in that everything is precisely and neatly done, and where a tempo can be taken fast, it nearly always is. Breslik and Amir Katz present a forthright, youthful, impetuous schöne Müllerin, certainly more refreshing than deeply melancholy.

The tone is set with a jolly ‘Das Wandern,’ trippingly played and brightly sung – this is not a youth glorying too much in his freedom and thus doomed to misery, but a young man enjoying all that life has to offer. Danksagung an den Bach’ revealed a smooth legato line, although the closing ‘Vollauf genug’ was perhaps a touch strident. Breslik is at his best in the more muscular, impassioned songs such as ‘Am Feierabend’ and ‘Ungeduld,’ where he and Katz whip up quite a storm, neither being at all fazed by the sometimes frenetic speed.

Katz’ delicately hesitant vorspiel to ‘Der Neugerige’ ushered in a word-sensitive performance of this sublime song, the little nachspiel equally plaintive and questioning. ‘Pause’ is the turning point of the cycle, and it seems that many of us are so used to hearing it taken very slowly – sometimes almost hypnotically so – that it comes as a surprise, on looking at the music, to find it marked Ziemlich geschwind. This was an instruction which Katz certainly followed, giving a lighter mood than one often finds when this song is over.

In ‘Der Jäger’ Breslik gave a stirring, edgy performance of this challenging song, heralding in some quite febrile interpretations of ‘Eifersucht und Stolz’ and ‘Die böse Farbe.’ ‘Trockne Blumen’ gave a glimpse of Breslik’s ability to shape a phrase to moving effect in ‘Ach, Tränen machen / Nicht maiengrün’ although the closing lines were a bit on the hectic side.

‘Des Baches  Wiegenlied’ was  more of a farewell to a place and a person than a parting from life, so that at the close of the cycle one felt less despairing than is usual. Two remarkable encores followed, a searing ‘Erlkönig’ and Dvořák’s ‘Songs my Mother taught me,’ an ideal contrast with its mellow lyricism.

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Breslik / Katz @ Wigmore Hall, London