This ninth concert in Malcolm Martineau’s Decade by Decade series brought us to the eighteen-nineties, and what a marvellous decade that was in terms of song, producing some of the greatest works in the entire German repertoire. Who better to sing them, then, than the German soprano Christiane Oelze, accompanied by Martineau with equally authentic commitment.
Oelze had been suffering with a chest infection, so she was understandably not at her best, her usually warm, distinctive timbre only rarely emerging. Nevertheless, she offered some thrilling singing in her Mahler group, ‘Ich ging mit Lust’ especially joyful, the closing ‘Wo ist dein Herzliebster geblieben?‘ lingering poignantly. Sometimes I wonder why singers perform ‘Urlicht’ – its such a mountain to climb, but of course it must be an irresistible one and although she did not quite manage to sustain the line at the close, Oelze created the right mood of intensity.
She found her Strauss groups challenging, as indeed these songs are even for those in perfect health. ‘Ich trage meine Minne’ was perhaps her best singing, the phrases at the beginning and ending especially rapt. It’s always wonderful to hear ‘Heimliche Aufforderung’ and although the high-lying lines proved daunting, Oelze gave full expression to the lyrical phrases such as ‘Und wandle hinaus in den Garten’. Martineau accompanied with impassioned skill, supportive and attentive to every nuance.
An extremely appreciative audience was rewarded with a heartfelt ‘Ständchen’, Martineau’s shimmering accompaniment and Oelze’s fervent articulation of ‘Wonnenschauern der Nacht’ sending us off in a mood of anticipation for the concluding recital in this excellent series, featuring Sylvia Schwartz on July 16th.
Further details of Wigmore Hall concerts can be found at wigmore-hall.org