Review: Schumann & Schubert; Pregardien & Drake; Snape Proms, August 17
PUBLISHED: 18:01 21 August 2017
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Quality was guaranteed in this recital with two of the greatest ever composers of lieder and one of today’s most celebrated performing partnerships of the genre.
Schumann’s song cycle ‘Dichterliebe’ was written in a matter of days during May 1840, a few months before his eventual marriage to Clara Wieck. The wedding was bitterly opposed by her father and the songs declare not only the composer’s intense love for his bride but cover darker emotions including lost love along with grudges and forgiveness.
The early settings are almost entirely optimistic; Julius Drake’s elegant accompaniment blended seamlessly with Christoph Pregardien’s beautifully balanced tenor voice to create a sense of unclouded ecstasy. Anger flares in Ich grolle nicht and both artists increased the tension but without unnecessary histrionics.
Drake’s unerring control of the spare writing in Hor’ ich das Liedchen produced a remarkable effect and the rapt attention given to his solo passage at the end of the cycle was tribute to his impeccable pianism. Pregardien’s strength of delivery and excellent diction enabled him to reach all corners of the hall without sense of strain.
The second half consisted of a variety of songs by Schubert from a number poetic sources including Friedrich Ruckert whose work also attracted the attention of Gustav Mahler. Schubert was certainly inspired to some striking effects - the hesitant, unresolved cadences at the opening of the first song, Dass sie hier gewesen, and the bleak, brooding opening of the second, Greisengesang. Du bist die Ruh, one of the composer’s best loved works found Pregardien in warm, ardent voice yet with an intimate intensity that affected everyone.
Every song had its innate beauties and each performance drew superb musicianship from the performers; Drake’s virtuosity in Im Walde and the acutely realised grave-digging in Totengrabers Heimweh for example. Pregardien floated effortlessly as a chink of light appeared to the gravedigger in the penultimate song and then found a deep and moving profundity in the final lines of Die Winterabend.
It was a memorable evening; rarely have I attended a concert with so little coughing and such sustained attention.