Opera + Classical Music Reviews

Kirchschlager/Martineau @ Wigmore Hall, London

5 November 2010

Anyone who thought that not much happened in German lieder between the death of Schubert in 1828 and the outpourings of Schumann in 1840 should have attended this recital by Angelika Kirchschlager.

The third in the Wigmores recital series Decade by Decade 100 years of German song 1810-1910, this concert exploring 1830-40 was just as strong as the two that preceded it, although it possessed quite a different tone.

The first songs by Felix Mendelssohn all contained a spring theme. In Im Frhling Kirchschlager expertly tackled some complex phrasing, while in Frhlingsglaube her strong voice expanded superbly as it tackled the high passages. Her performance of Das erste Veilchen, a more multi-layered song than the first two, was also beautifully executed. The change in tone at Der lenz ist vorber (Spring is gone) was particularly emotive as Kirchschlager sang unaccompanied for several notes, her hands clasped together or gesturing outwards. She also proved engaging in Frhlingslied as she swayed from side to side and raised one hand above her head.

It was a treat to hear four lieder from Sngerfahrt Op. 33 by Franz Paul Lachner which, with exceptions, possessed a more lyrical feel than the Mendelssohn songs. In Die badende Elfe Kirchschlager demonstrated an exemplary attention to detail in her phrasing, before bringing out every single syllable in the fast-paced Eine Liebe.

After the interval came five beautiful songs from Fanny Mendelssohn, all written between 1836 and 1838. Die Mainacht was wonderfully lyrical, Ich wandelte unter den Bumen had a rippling quality that combined well with Kirchschlagers rich voice, while Warum sind denn die Rosen so bla? had a slightly sadder melody. Schwanenlied (Swan song) expressed the transitory nature of life, while Wanderlied (Song of travel) felt more joyous and urgent.

The five lieder from Frauenliebe Op. 60 by Carl Loewe were also a wonder to hear. Kirchschlager captured well the sense of entrancement in Seit ich ihn gesehen (Since first seeing him), the ambivalent joy felt on ones wedding day in Helft mir, ihr Schwestern, and the sense of standing steadfast in grief in Traum der eignen Tage.

The recital ended with two lieder from Vier Fabellieder Op. 64 by Loewe, in which Kirchschlager showed her aptitude for comic performance. Der Kuckuck tells of a singing competition in which the donkey crowns the cuckoo over the nightingale as he cannot understand the latter. Kirchschlagers facial expressions were a picture, but her delivery remained just deadpan enough to keep it hilarious. Similarly, in Der verliebte Maikfer she captured all of the exasperation of the fly and all of the persistence of the beetle as the latter mistakes the formers brush offs for advances.

Besides Kirchschlagers exemplary performances I was left wondering whether pianist Malcolm Martineau is capable of having an off-day. I could never say for certain, of course, but based on his superb performances in the first three recitals in the Decade by Decade series I would be inclined to think not.

This concert was recorded for a future broadcast on Radio 3 (unspecified at the time of writing). The Decade by Decade series continues on 17 December when Roman Trekel (replacing Dorothea Rschmann) and Malcolm Martineau perform songs from the decade 1840-50.

Further details of Wigmore Hall concerts can be found at wigmore-hall.org

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