Christoph Prégardien & Christoph Schnackertz at Wigmore Hall – Wolf, Liszt & Mahler

Begegnung; Der Gärtner; An die Geliebte; Der Feuerreiter
Freudvoll und leidvoll; Der du von dem Himmel bist; Es war ein König in Thule; Im Rhein, im schönen Strome; Die Loreley
Des Knaben Wunderhorn – Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen; Revelge

Christoph Prégardien (tenor) & Christoph Schnackertz (piano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 30 April, 2012
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Christoph Prégardien. © Rosa-Frank.comGiven the inclement weather in London, it was entirely appropriate that Christoph Prégardien should begin this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert with the words, “Was doch heut nacht ein Sturm gewesen, Bis erst der Morgen sich geregt!” (“What a storm there was last night, it raged until this morning dawned!”). The lines are by Eduard Mörike, the opening line of Hugo Wolf’s setting of Begegnung – a torrent of notes from pianist Christoph Schnackertz was unleashed upon the unsuspecting Wigmore Hall audience. But this was a storm born of passion between two lovers – and Prégardien left us in no doubt as to the strength of feeling involved. There was rich opportunity for expression in this and the other three Wolf settings of Mörike. The implied triple-time of Der Gärtner had a slightly confused pulse, due entirely to the composer’s clever syncopation, but perhaps the most affecting song was also the softest, Prégardien’s clear, ringing tone wonderfully suited to An die Geliebte, Schnackertz now considerably calmer in his postlude. Der Feuerreiter (Fire-rider), an extraordinarily descriptive piece of writing, went off at a fearsome pace, Schnackertz too loud, though gradually Prégardien came through to dominate. The wild climax was arresting, but more affecting was the bleak aftermath, where Wolf’s description of ash floating down to the ground was chilling indeed.

It was heartening to see the inclusion of five songs from Liszt. We heard the song that uses the ‘Tristan’ chord – though Die Loreley predates Wagner’s ‘discovery’ by one year. Here it was powerfully wrought, the singer’s vibrato under strict and admirable control to heighten the expression. Meanwhile Der du von dem Himmel bist (‘You who are from heaven’) benefited from a completely unhurried approach, and Im Rhein, im schönen Strome, a setting of Heine, gave Schnackertz ample room to portray Liszt’s description of the great river.

Prégardien and Schnackertz finished with two of Mahler’s most substantial ‘Wunderhorn’ settings. The bare bones of the accompaniment made a chilling start to ‘Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen’. ‘Revelge’ was ever starker, its march given out in strict confines and brittle tone. Schnackertz was again too dominant, but there was no stopping the harrowing delivery of Prégardien, who made this song so compelling it was an effort to move as he told the tale of the soldiers dying: “Des Morgens stehen da die Gebeine” (there in the morning lie their bones) carried particular weight. As an encore the mood lightened, as it had to, for Schubert’s Im Frühling, beautifully floated by tenor and pianist, transitions between verses very nicely judged.

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