Sunday 25 March 2018

Moving, thoughtful, thought-provoking - Christoph Prégardien, Julia Kleiter and Julius Drake at Temple Song

Christoph Prégardien
Christoph Prégardien
Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn songs & duets; Christoph Prégardien, Julia Kleiter, Julius Drake; Temple Song at Middle Temple Hall
Reviewed by Ruth Hansford on Mar 21 2018 Star rating : 5.0 (★★★★★)
A classy evening from three seasoned communicators. We left the concert feeling like teenagers

The magnificent Middle Temple Hall is a tricky space for a song recital. The singers can only see a third of the audience and so have to figure out where to look. The ceiling is high and there are lots of visual distractions on the walls. But once we have got used to that – with help from musicians who understand how to manage a space – we’re home and dry. At Temple Song on 21 March 2018, in the hands of Julia Kleiter, Christoph Prégardien and Julius Drake this standard celebrity recital turned into something wonderful, with songs and duets by Schubert, Schumann and Mendelssohn, setting predominantly Goethe and Heine. We were also given much food for thought (albeit in a dense, presbyopia-unfriendly font) thanks to Richard Stokes’ fascinating programme notes.

Julia Kleiter
Julia Kleiter
Goethe lived to the age of 82 but saw himself as a perpetual adolescent: at the age of 78 he confided to a friend that he experienced ‘eine wiederholte Pubertät’ – a repeated puberty. Schubert, meanwhile, didn’t get much chance to be anything other than an adolescent, if we go with the line that his fateful visit to a brothel happened when he was barely out of his teens.

The first half of the evening explored Schubert’s settings of Goethe, and the energy, confusion and desolation of adolescence were in evidence throughout. We started off at night with Christoph Prégardien: ‘Wilkommen und Abschied’ a wild night ride to the beloved whom the poet speculates perhaps he doesn’t deserve. It was followed by Julia Kleiter enjoying the still moonlight in ‘An den Mond’, in her loneliness drifting between joy and pain. Prégardien then gave us a dark, spooky ‘Todesstille’ – deathly silence – in ‘Meeres stille’, followed by two unhinged spinning songs from Kleiter. When day broke we had a stunning, ecstatic ‘Ganymed’ from Kleiter.

The second group of Schubert/Goethe settings told the story of Mignon and the Harper from ‘Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre’. Foreigners, outcasts, misunderstood, exhausted, they sing of their loneliness ‘Einsamkeit’ so completely that the final piece in this group came as a hymn. They sang the duet version of ‘Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt’ – having found someone who understands how they suffer. We had gone on quite a journey ourselves by now.

After the interval Prégardien began with four songs that Schumann cut from the published version of ‘Dichterliebe’. From the broken, dark, baritonal sounds of the first half, he sounded twenty years younger in these. Though Heine only wrote of unrequited love, in Schumann’s hands these poems describe a love that we crave nevertheless: nightingales and moonlight, even though it will break our hearts. Another perpetual adolescent.

Three duets followed. The middle of these was ‘In der Nacht’: ‘Alle gingen, Herz, sur Ruh / Alle schlafen, nur nicht du’ – ‘All have gone to rest, O heart / All are sleeping, all but you’. As Richard Stokes says: ‘There can be no deeper expression in the entire song repertoire of the power of love to banish sleep’. Just six short lines of text in a canon, with desolate sforzando chords in the piano, lasting a good five minutes; the three created an atmosphere of heartbreak that will stay with me for ages.

We were back to cynical Heine tempered by Mendelssohn for the final group. Three songs sung by Julia Kleiter, and three duets that didn’t touch the ground – Eichendorff’s impulsive ‘Gruß’, followed by Fallersleben’s migrating birds, propelled us to the final urgent ‘Ich wollt’, meine Lieb ergösse sich’ – ‘I wish I could pour my love into a single word’.

And I wish they will do the whole thing again at the Wigmore. A classy evening from three seasoned communicators. We left the concert feeling like teenagers.
Review by Ruth Hansford

Julia Kleiter soprano
Christoph Prégardien tenor
Julius Drake piano

Schubert/Goethe: Wilkommen und Abschied; An den Mond; Meeres Stille; Die Spinnerin; Gretchen am Spinnrade; Versunken; Schäfers Klagelied; Ganymed; Der Musensohn.

Schubert/Goethe: Mignon und der Harfner: Kennst Du das Land; Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergiebt; Heiss mich nicht redden; Wer nie sein Brod mit Tränen ass; So lasst mich scheinen ; An die Türen; Nur wer sie Sehnsucht kennt.

Schumann/Heine: Dein Angesicht; Es leuchtet meine Liebe; Lehn Deine Wang’; Mein Wagen rollet langsam.

Schumann Duette: Er und Sie; In der Nacht; Die tausend Grüße.

Mendelssohn/Heine: Allnächtlich im Traume; Auf Flügeln des Gesanges; Neue Liebe.

Mendelssohn Duette: Gruss; Abschiedslied der Zugvögel; Ich wollt, meine Lieb ergösse sich.

Elsewhere on this blog:
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  • Real discoveries: the songs of Nikolai Medtner (★★★★) - CD review
  • The Gluepot Connection - 20th century British composers linked by their watering-hole - CD review
  • A sense of intelligent conversation: John Jenkins complete four-part consort music (★★★★★) - CD review
  • Taking wing: Royal Academy Opera's Flight launches the new theatre - opera review
  • The lure of the East: Soraya Mafi's debut recital at the Wigmore Hall (★★★★)  - concert review
  • Rakastava: the music of Sibelius from Chamber Domaine  (★★★½) - CD review
  • Tradition and innovation: I chat to Hugo Ticciati, violinist and artistic director of O/Modernt - interview
  • Daniel Kramer's new production of Verdi's La traviata at ENO (★★★)  - Opera review
  • Ceremonial Oxford: music for the Georgian university by William Hayes  (★★★½) - CD review
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