The lonely wanderer, tormented by unrequited love, looks up at the moon and reflects upon mortality – thus the narrative of so many Lieder, especially when the composer is Schubert: this finely judged selection of the well loved and the obscure was sung by Christian Gerhaher with his characteristic beauty of tone and played by Gerold Huber with poetic finesse. The hall was crammed to bursting with those who appreciate what might best be called Gerhaher’s old-fashioned style of singing – that is, lovely in tone, almost gesture-free, and mostly devoid of the kind of fervour which characterizes many other singers of the post-Fischer-Dieskau age.
An den Mond in einer Herbstnacht set the tone: the playing was unfussy, sparsely elegant and subtle, whilst the singing was uniformly scrupulous in attention to detail but tended towards the monotonous as the song went on. Abschied (Mayrhofer) fared better in that its forlorn, melancholy mood suited the hushed, introspective interpretation. Über Wildemann was powerfully done but the sense of the aching sweetness of Spring in the valley which contrasts with the Winter both on the mountain and in the poet’s heart – ‘Die Quellen springen / bei deinem Wehn!’ – seemed to have been sacrificed to a more general tempestuousness.
Der Wanderer an den Mond would probably be on most Lieder lovers’ list of Schubert’s hundred best, and it was given a fresh, sensitive performance, Huber’s playing most vividly evoking the lonely wanderer’s plight. The sublime Frühlingsglaube is another much-loved song and it was beautifully sung even though the performance lacked the subtle shadings of vocal colour given to it by Fischer-Dieskau and Goerne. Lied eines Schiffers an die Dioskuren is a personal favourite, the movement of the ocean finely suggested by Huber and the grandeur of the exalted sentiments well caught by Gerhaher even if one wanted a little more of a sense of wonder.
The single encore, Im Abendrot was the perfect closure to this recital, and its performance summed up the whole – very fine singing, with wonderfully even tone and control, more remarkable for consistency than for subtlety, and accompanied with graceful, nuanced playing.
Further details of Wigmore Hall concerts can be found at wigmore-hall.org.uk.