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Seen and Heard Recital  Review




Schumann, Schubert: Angelika Kirchschlager (mezzo- soprano), Helmut Deutsch (piano) Wigmore Hall, 28.10.2006 (AO)



In the introduction to the Wigmore Hall Festival of Song series Dame Felicity Lott says “The song recital is the most intimate way of communicating with an audience, singing to people, looking them in the eye, sharing joys and sorrows, interpreting great poetry which has inspired great music. I think that is what many singers love most”.  


This is so true and so touching that it bears repeating, again and again.  Certainly it captures the essence of this recital by Kirchschlager and Deutsch, both Wigmore Hall regulars. 


The programme was simple: Schumann and Schubert at their loveliest. If the material was familiar, it hardly mattered, for this was a quintessential Liederabend.  Kirchschlager was not in top form because she was suffering from a heavy cold – half way through she succumbed to a much needed coughing fit between songs.  No one begrudged her.  She was not at her most spectacular, but in this choice of material what counts is warmth and intimacy.  After a quiet start, Kirchschlager launched into Hoch, hoch sind die Berge, a late song from the Spanische Liebeslieder, where she could indulge in the colourful “Spanish” ellipses and ornamentation. It’s surprising how much this cycle heralds the later work of Johannes Brahms, who, at 16, was yet to meet Schumann. The quaint playfulness of this setting with its easy going charm was just right for Kirchschlager on what must have been a tense evening, given her suppressed cough.  She didn’t invest much characterisation in Die Soldatenbraut or the bizarre, Freudian Die Löwenbraut, which really does need a bit of drama to liven up its strophic character.


But her Stille Tränen, was superb.  The gentle lilt of this song is soothing, and at last, we heard more of the depth and richness she is capable of.  The piano part supplies the undertones of irony that mark the Kerner Lieder, and are most haunting when the cycle is performed as a whole.  Deutsch obliged with some powerfully dark playing.  He also supplied the drama in another Kerner song, Lust der Sturmnacht, where the piano part portrays a wild rainstorm, where windows rattle and “travellers are lost in the night”.   It contrasts with the happiness in the singer’s part, which celebrates being safe indoors, with a lover.  Following the reactions of Kirchschlager and Deutsch to each other was an education in how singer and pianist interact.  Deutsch is a sensitive accompanist who understands how the piano can support the voice – Kirchschlager must have been glad he was there for her!


After the interval, we were treated to a group of Schubert songs, ranging from the much loved to the less familiar.  Kirchschlager sounded bright and clear in Auf dem See, as she sang of the waves cradling the boat “to the rhythm of the oars”.   The highlight though was Wiegenlied which brought some deeply felt, emotionally charged singing.  Deutsch had the measure of rocking motion in the lullaby, allowing Kirchschlager’s voice to soar lovingly, especially in the refrains.  “Heiterer Morgen, Himmlischer Tag” was sung with such feeling that you could almost embrace the baby whom the song celebrates.  Songs like An den Mond, Nähe des Geliebten and the immortal An de Musik are so lovely that they almost sing themselves.  Kirchschlager’s skills were better deployed in the seldom heard Lied des Florio.  This is a song from a play called Lacrimas, where a woodsman called Florio who falls in love with a princess but doesn’t win her.  This song and its companion piece, the girl’s song, Delphine, were published after Schubert’s death.  Florio is usually sung by a male voice, so hearing it here with a soprano was good.  Indeed, the lilting line “Nun, da Schatten niedergleiten” seems to respond better with a lighter voice, and the final verse, with its odd “Come, O night, envelop me in your colourless darkness!” (farbenlosen Dunkel) comes over as if in half light, reminiscent of Schubert’s other “starlight” settings, such as the strange, unworldly Der liebliche Stern.    


This concert was being recorded for future broadcast – something to look forward to!



Anne Ozorio



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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)