Erstes Grün, Op.35/4
Hoch, hoch sind die Berge, Op.138/8
Die Soldatenbraut, Op.64/1
Das verlassne Mägdelein, Op.64/2
Stille Tränen, Op.35/10
Die Löwenbraut, Op.31/1
Lust der Sturmnacht, Op.35/1
Morgens steh ich auf und frage, Op.24/1
Der Einsiedler, Op.83/3
Auf dem See, D543
Das Echo, D868
Des Mädchens Klage, D191
Nähe des Geliebten, D162
Bie dir allein, D886/2
Der Pilgrim, D794
Lied des Florio, D857/2
An den Mond, D259
An die Musik, D547
Angelika Kirchschlager (mezzo-soprano) & Helmut Deutsch (piano)
Reviewed by: Rob Pennock
Reviewed: 28 October, 2006
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
Angelika Kirchschlager has a lightweight and reasonably flexible voice at her disposal and – when she chooses to use them – a quite large range of tone colours. The programme consisted of deservedly and undeservedly rarely heard songs as well as those more popular, by both composers.
From the first item it was apparent that Kirchschlager is a ‘modern’ singer; every note and syllable was defined, there was virtually no portamento, vibrato was tightly controlled and the dynamic range limited. In “Erstes Grün” the last word of the first and last stanzas was beautifully lengthened and the middle verse contained a whole range of mf and piano shading. Throughout the recital such shading was never absent; it was all very exact and came close to becoming predictable.
Far more problematic was Kirchschlager’s lack of portamento, vibrato and ‘chest voice’. The greatest of all mezzo-soprano Lieder singers, Janet Baker, said that if you take away these ingredients then you take away two of a singer’s greatest weapons – and Kirchschlager proved over and over again how true this is. At the start of Schumann’s “Liebeslied” one longed for more sweep, for the notes to be seamlessly integrated into a long line, and the same for “Das verlassne Mägdelein”, while the whole of “Der Einsiedler” needed more flow and mellifluousness.
In the Schubert songs, the greatest hymn to music ever penned – “An die Musik” – lacked legato and thereby the song was robbed of its benedictory and rapt qualities. And while Kirchschlager’s micro-dynamics were very fine, regrettably in this song the second stanza brought no subito piano at its start. Throughout the recital her use of unvarying tonal weight brought some monotony. This was highlighted by her use of the ‘chest voice’ at the start of Schumann’s “Hoch, hoch sind die Berge” and Schubert’s “Auf dem See”, both of which gave a tantalising glimpse of what, tonally, was at her disposal, as did her very occasional use of ‘head voice’.
Nor was there much characterisation. Without the texts you would have been hard put to tell what any of the songs were about, although in the long “Das Echo” she did convey some of the knowing yet charming innocence of the girl. Indeed throughout the recital the word that kept springing to mind was ‘charm’: Kirchschlager’s appearance and stage-manner was very nice, but there was no depth to be heard anywhere. Much the same could be said of Helmut Deutsch who was pretty innocuous and unvarying in all that he did.