Christianne Stotijn & Joseph Breinl


Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Berg
4 Lieder, Op.2
Schubert
Im Walde (Waldesnacht), D708
An den Mond, D193
Nachtstück, D672
Der Zwerg, D771
Nacht und Träume, D827
Erlkönig, D328
Wolf
4 Mörike Lieder: Um Mitternacht; Auf eine Christblüme I; Gesang Weylas; Lied vom Winde
Christianne Stotijn (mezzo-soprano) & Joseph Breinl (piano)

Wigmore Hall, London

Monday, November 20, 2006

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The majority of this collection of Lieder, loosely based on the themes of ‘night’ and ‘sleep’, has already been recorded by Christianne Stotijn and Joseph Breinl on a well-received disc for the Onyx Classics label.
Stotijn’s voice, fulsome in tone, carried the Berg easily and was able to capture the heady expression of his Opus 2 Lieder, written at a time when the influence of his teacher Schoenberg was becoming ever more pronounced. The middle two songs are brief but concentrated, and Stotijn over-emphasised the ‘sch’ of ‘Schlafen’ (‘sleep’), a disquieting effect with which to begin the first song. In the final song her emphasis on the word ‘Stirb’ (‘die’) helped secure a chilly close.
A substantial grouping of Schubert songs followed, including two famous ballads, "Der Zwerg" and "Erlkönig". These were darkly shaded, the tales of death conveyed visually in Stotijn’s expressions as well as in her singing. The forceful declamation of the narrator in "Erlkönig" was especially powerful, with a persuasive aside to the audience seconds before he spirited his victim away.
The ‘night’ theme continued through the stormy "Im Walde", both performers making good sense of the structure in one of Schubert’s longest song settings. This was the only time where the sense of balance was compromised, with Breinl’s ‘roar of the wind’ given extra amplification by a raised piano lid. The gorgeous "Nacht und Träume" countered this, and Stotijn’s control at the restful close was perfectly poised.
Lighter, too, were the legato of "An den Mond" and the expansively interpreted "Nachtstück", its dark opening giving over to lighter thoughts as Stotijn vividly depicted the old man and his harp.
To finish was a selection from Wolf’s Mörike-Lieder. Here the biggest challenge was the larger structure of "Auf eine Christblume I", held together admirably and with lightly brushed upper notes from Breinl securing an atmospheric finish. Weyla’s song was far more concise, a rapturous hymn to the poet’s mythical island of Orplid. The gales blew once more for the closing "Lied vom Winde", and while Breinl’s swirling octaves alighted at obscure harmonic centres, Stotijn’s authoritative vocal tone remained.
For encores were two more Mörike settings, "Elfenlied" and "Verborgenheit". Stotijn’s manner interacted warmly with an appreciative audience.



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