Opera + Classical Music Reviews

Schade/Martineau @ Wigmore Hall, London

19 October 2010


The Wigmores new recital series, Decade by Decade 100 years of German song 1810-1910, could not have got off to a stronger start as Michael Schade performed songs by Beethoven, Schubert, Weber and Tomek from the period 1810-1820.

With the first half dominated by Beethoven song cycles, and the second by those of Schubert, the evening placed great demands on Schade as he had to capture every emotion from loving to longing. There was such an overarching coherency to his performance, however, that it was easy to forget just what flexibility was required of him to keep switching from one vocal style to another.

The majority of the evenings songs were to texts by Goethe. In the opening Wonne der Wehmut by Beethoven, Schade showed how the expression of emotion was an inherent part of his basic vocal technique. With the song meaning Delight in sadness, he captured its double-edged nature superbly, about to collapse in tears as he sung Trocknet nicht before exploding forth with Trnen unglcklicher Liebe. Mit einem gemalten Band then revealed how Schades upper register could create a sound that seemed to disappear into infinity.

The first half also included a cycle by Jan Vclav Tomek, and it was interesting to see how Schade switched from the dreamy tones of Nhe des Geliebten to the more urgent sound of An die Entfernte. For sheer beauty, the Tomek cycle did not quite match those of Beethoven and Schubert but its inclusion was entirely correct, and this was a marvellous opportunity to compare Tomeks setting of Goethes Rastlose Liebe with that of Schubert in the second half.

Schade also proved a fine actor as he rested his arm on the piano, put his palm to his chest, wiped his brow, or even appeared to hush the sound with his hands. As befitting the words, he appeared emotionally drained by the end of Beethovens An die ferne Geliebte Op. 98 but this was all clearly part of the act.

The three Schubert song cycles in the second half were phrased to perfection, and the glow to Schades upper register quite ethereal. Pianist Malcolm Martineau, who is overseeing the Decade by Decade series, also deserves mention for both the elegance and clarity of his playing across the evening. There was a lovely moment when Schade announced the encore only for Martineau to cry Ive got the wrong one and rush backstage to find the right music! It speaks volumes, however, that the only glitch over the entire evening was one that had absolutely no effect on the musical output.

This concert was recorded for a future broadcast on Radio 3 (unspecified at the time of writing). The Decade by Decade series continues on 2 November when Christopher Maltman and Malcolm Martineau perform songs from the decade 1820-30.

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

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