Edinburgh International Festival 2019 – Michael Volle & Helmut Deutsch at Queen’s Hall – Schiller/Schubert | Wunderhorn | Rückert/Strauss & Mahler

Lieder by Schubert, Mahler & Strauss

Michael Volle (baritone) & Helmut Deutsch (piano)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 8 August, 2019
Venue: Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland

Michael Volle, photograph: Carsten SanderHelmut Deutsch, photograph: Shirley SuarezReviewed from live BBC Radio 3 broadcast… You know you are in the company of great artistry when within a second you are drawn completely into music that you don’t know – such was the case when Michael Volle and Helmut Deutsch launched their Edinburgh Festival morning recital with Schubert’s Schiller-inspired twenty-seven verse Der Taucher (The Diver). Here was a vivid and varied narrative and illuminating piano-playing (the latter though a little backwards in the balance – a true reflection of what was happening in the Hall, or an engineering whim?) telling “of the tragic tale of [a] King’s challenge to retrieve a gold goblet from the water to win his daughter’s hand in marriage.” Twenty-three minutes or so were admirably sustained by these performers, a bold beginning – but which version was performed, D77 or D111? We weren’t told. Following applause the partnership went straight into three of Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn settings (relating to the Rhine, St Anthony, and Higher Understanding), once again with subtle vocal and pianistic painting, intertwined, full of character and shapely musicianship; time-taken, too, thus more was revealed of words and sentiments.

The interval arrived, coffee and silence for me (otherwise it would have been incongruous J. S. Bach and Steve Reich from Colin Currie!), and when returned to the airwaves it was Rückert all the way. From Richard Strauss’s Opus 87 collection (1929), three selections – ‘Vom künftigen Alter’; ‘Und dann nicht mehr’; ‘Im Sonnenschein’ (the latter added in 1935) – made a big impression (although Volle was occasionally gruff), more Expressionist than you might expect (Schoenberg in the shadows, occasionally); yet, also, as Helmut Deutsch says, anticipating the Four Last Songs. Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder ended the recital, given with similar generosity and point as in Wunderhorn, embracing the dark spell of ‘Um Mitternacht’ and the poignant leave-taking of ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’, the deepest of feelings intimately shared. Maybe nothing should have followed that, but a further Strauss song did the trick, so too another Wunderhorn number, and … third-time-lucky … one of Schubert’s two arrangements of Goethe’s Wandrers Nachtlied.

  • Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (available on BBC iPlayer for thirty days afterwards)

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