Matthias Goerne & Daniil Trifonov at Wigmore Hall – Schumann’s Dichterliebe, Brahms’s Four Serious Songs, Michelangelo from Wolf and Shostakovich

Vier Lieder, Op.2
Dichterliebe, Op.48
Drei Gedichte von Michelangelo
Suite on Verses of Michelangelo, Op.145 [selections: Dante; Death; Night]
Vier ernste Gesänge, Op.121

Matthias Goerne (baritone) & Daniil Trifonov (piano)

Reviewed by: Amanda-Jane Doran

Reviewed: 8 June, 2016
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Matthias GoernePhotograph: Marco BorggreveThe scintillating Daniil Trifonov teamed up with Matthias Goerne for an intensely moving and dramatic Wigmore Hall song recital; they navigated a course between love, loss and death, the conscious mind and the subconscious.

Alban Berg’s Four Songs opened the performance. The borders of tonality and reality are fading. Berg travels into a world overcome by sleep and dreams. Goerne and Trifonov quietly ushered us into this realm in ‘Schlafen, Schlafen’, and with the final setting, ‘Warm die Lüfte’, myth and the supernatural combined with melancholy. Goerne’s hushed legato and Trifonov’s subdued accompaniment perfectly captured this subtle and complex music.

Without a break Trifonov entered into Robert Schumann’s tonality, but emotionally the mood remained just as hallucinatory. Rarely has the introduction to Dichterliebe been taken so slowly or sounded so trance-like. The happiness of ‘Im wunderschönen Monat Mai’ is quite illusory. The sardonic rhapsodising of Heinrich Heine’s poetry alternates images of burgeoning Spring (manic comparisons of the beloved with the beauties of nature) and sad scenarios drenched in tears. Goerne and Trifonov gave the initial songs with thoughtful, restrained dynamics.

By contrast, the dramatic core – ‘Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome’ and ‘Ich grolle nicht’ – reached operatic intensity. The Rhine here is a mirror of ominous reflections and later the scene of Schumann’s suicide attempt. Goerne surprised by not taking the histrionic high notes for the conclusion of the latter setting and communicated a dazed resignation with the repeated lower alternative. This fascinating reading continued sweetly with ‘Allnächtlich im Traume’ until the nightmare manifested itself in ‘Aus alten Märchen’ – the sinister fairytale subject linking straight back to the third of Berg’s songs. The conclusion was chilling, thrilling and big. ‘Die alten, bösen Lieder’ have haunted and overwhelmed the poet so much that they must be buried in a huge coffin with all his love and sorrow. Goerne gave it everything: passion, irony, volume. The fragile beauty of the piano postlude from Trifonov was ethereal and disturbing: it emerged as a dislocated pianissimo pointing to mental disintegration. This was a rendition of extraordinary contrasts and insights.

Daniil TrifonovPhotograph: Dario AcostaHugo Wolf’s Drei Gedichte von Michelangelo (1897) represent his final music, a farewell to love, full of longing and nostalgia, resignation that all things must perish and a spiritual resolution. Wolf lost his reason after composing these introspective masterpieces; Goerne delivered them with a dignified and resonant clarity. The three choices from Shostakovich’s Michelangelo Suite took us further into the emotional abyss. Over an hour into the recital, with no interval, Goerne showed little sign of tiring in spite of the massive demands on his voice and emotional stamina. The programme concluded with Brahms’s Four Serious Songs, written in 1896 as a memorial to Clara Schumann. Brahms’s meditations on death offered solace. Goerne and Trifonov had illuminated the dark places where love resides in an unforgettable evening.

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