Thursday 4 October 2018

Schubert's Winter Journey - Robin Tritschler and Malcolm Martineau at Wigmore Hall

Robin Tritschler (Photo Wigmore Hall)
Robin Tritschler (Photo Wigmore Hall)
Schubert's Winter Journey; Robin Tritschler, Malcolm Martineau; Wigmore Hall Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 3 October 2018 Star rating: 5.0 (★★★★★)
Masterly Schubert performances in a recital themed around Winter, combining well-known and lesser-known songs from the full gamut of Schubert's career

In Schubert's Winter Journey (the first of a quartet of concerts from Robin Tritschler on The Seasons), tenor Robin Tritschler and pianist Malcolm Martineau came up with an intriguing idea for their concert at the Wigmore Hall on Wednesday 3 October 2018, with a group of songs (20 in all) written by Schubert during the Winter. The selection ranged widely from Nachtgesang and Schäfers Klagelied of 1814 to Der Winterabend and Die Sterne of 1828. The songs were grouped thematically, and seemed to evoke another winter journey too with Solitude, Lost Love and Death, plus Childhood. The advantage of such programming, of course, was the way it enabled us to hear songs which are not so frequently performed.

We started with Solitude, a theme that crops up regularly in Schubert's songs and here we had samples from the whole gamut, 1814 to 1828. We started with Der Einsame (1825) with its characterful narrative and perky piano, this was someone happy in their solitude, whilst the early Goethe setting, Nähe des Geliebten (1815), combined a lovely sense of line with lyrical passion. In Der Winterabend (1828), Tritschler and Martineau really captured the mood, with the beauty of Tritschler's voice complemented by the way he is able to tell a story. This sense of narrative and mood, combined with beauties of line, was something which continued throughout the recital, with Tritschler finely complemented by Martineau's wonderfully apposite piano playing. For this first half, we also heard some magically quiet singing.

A song like the early Nacthgesang (1814) was deceptively simple but magical, whilst Schäfers Klagelied from the same year showed just how complex the young Schubert could make a strophic song. This group finished in gloriously exuberant fashion with Der Musensohn (1822).

We then moved on to Childhood with a trio of songs, the first two both lullabyes of a sort. Der Knabe in der Wiege 'Wiegenlied' (1817) had a sinuous melody supported by a rocking piano, with Tritschler really capturing us with the story, whilst Der Vater mit dem Kind (1827) was a more conventional lullaby, and Vor meiner Wiege (1827) gave us the typically Schubertian combination of present pain and past happiness. A fabulous song, written at the time of Winterreise, superbly performed.

The second half opened with the subject of Death, another one which threads its way through Schubert's output. Vom Mitleiden Mariä (1818) was the closest we got to religious, a neo-Baroque accompaniment and a vocal line which moved almost towards recitative, an intense little gem. The next two were more metaphoric, with striking scene Fahrt zum Hades (1817) where Schubert become almost operatic in the variety of moods captured, and Nachtstück (1819) with its striking narrative and magically beautiful ending. Der Tod un das Mädchen (1817) is, of course, known for its use in the string quartet, but the short song is certainly arresting, particularly with a performance as dramatic and mysterious as this one. Nachthymne (1820) was strangely mystic and metaphysical, but Tritschler and Martineau really sold the song to us.

Finally we moved to Lost love. An mein Herz (1825) was vivid and vibrant, positive in its outlook, whereas Alinde (1827) gave us a rather striking narrative whose positive ending seemed undermined by the evocative music. The lyrically characterful An die Laute (1827) gave way to the quite formal lyrical melancholy of Strophe aus 'Die Götter Griechenlands' . We finished with the headlong Willkommen und Abschied, a Goethe setting from 1822 which captured young love with vibrancy and vividness.

This was a very ful programme, delivered with masterly skill by Tritschler and Martineau and it was fully appreciated by the capacity crowd. We were treated to an encore, another winter song this time a well known one though as Tritschler explained Schubert, in fact, produced four different versions of it - Die Forelle.

This week has been a prime one for Schubert song in London with two different yet masterly pairings, Gerald Finley and Julius Drake at Temple Music [see my review] and Robin Tritschler and Malcolm Martineau here at the Wigmore Hall. Long may it continue.

Elsewhere on this blog:
  • Swan songs - Gerald Finley and Julius Drake at Temple Song  (★★★★★)  - Concert review
  • Love & Obsession: Robert & Clara Schumann and Brahms at Conway Hall - concert review
  • New dance double bill from New English Ballet Theatre & The English Concert (★★★★)  - Ballet Review
  • Pared down & claustrophobic: La Tragédie de Carmen from Pop-Up Opera  (★★★) - Opera review
  • Vividly theatrical, lyrically sung, but.... - Salome at ENO  (★★★★) - Opera review
  • A forgotten tradition: premiere recordings of two English symphonic works from John Andrews & BBC Concert Orchestra (★★★½) - CD review
  • Huw Watkins - Two concertos and a symphony (★★★½) - CD review
  • Jiri Belohlavek & the Czech Philharmonic in Janacek (★★★★½) - CD review
  • Vital & optimistic: Halle Children's Choir in Jonathan Dove's A Brief History of Creation (★★★½) - CD review
  • Late Romantic: I chat to pianist Margaret Fingerhut  - Interview
  • Decades - songs from 1830-1840, Malcolm Martineau and friends  (★★★★)  - CD review
  • Juditha resurgens: William Vann on reviving Parry's Judith - article
  • Mahler distilled: Iain Farrington and Rozana Madylus in "On Angels' Wings" (★★★½)  - concert review
  • A pastoral delight: Mozart's Bastien und Bastienne in its original version from The Mozartists  (★★★½)  - concert review
  •  Home

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