Robin Tritschler & Graham Johnson at Wigmore Hall – Schumann’s Spring and Fall

including Liederkreis, Op.39

Robin Tritschler (tenor) & Graham Johnson (piano)

Reviewed by: Amanda-Jane Doran

Reviewed: 14 January, 2019
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Robin TritschlerPhotograph: Garreth WongFor his current residency at Wigmore Hall Robin Tritschler is investigating The Seasons in song and in this Robert Schumann recital included the timeless Opus 39 Liederkreis.

To open, Frühlingsfahrt captures a mood of gaiety and energy matched by Tritschler’s ringing tessitura. Schumann hints at the mood beneath the surface, and as the song progressed the dual character of youth’s journey into the midst of experience became more apparent, the added weight of Tritschler’s lower register contributing gloriously to the profundity of the spiritual acceptance of the final lines. The fragility of happiness and real emotional connection is more explicitly illustrated in the Liederkreis, alternating with joyful and introspective professions of love to words by Eichendorff. Tritschler acquitted himself with insight and individuality; the attention to detail was striking and also touching in the extreme. ‘Mondnacht’ paints an ethereal and sensual picture of moonlight, personified, caressing the earth; Tritschler’s hushed description was exquisite. Another highlight included the atmospheric ‘Auf einer Burg’: the scene pans from a ruined castle into the river valley where a wedding party is making merry and finally to the face of the weeping bride; Tritschler excelled in communicating the shifting melancholy of the natural world reflected in man’s emotions.

Schumann’s later autobiographical songs have been neglected and Tritschler and Graham Johnson provided ample justification for their reassessment: each note was elegantly positioned by singer and pianist. Following four settings intended for domestic performance, the seasonal succession took a superficially blissful turn as the performers wove together complimentary wreaths of songs from 1840 and 1849-50. ‘Du bist wie eine Blume’ from Myrten and Der arme Peter showcased Heine’s lyrics melding elation and despair, and the power and conviction of Johnson’s accompaniment added layered meaning to the surreal emotional scenarios.

Des Sennen Abschied ushered in a less-tortured group of songs to bring the recital to a close. Schumann is in playful mood here marking the end of Summer with a country dance of immense charm and a rollicking bagpipe refrain. Thomas Moore’s Venetian Airs followed and emphasised Tritschler’s talent for humour and atmospheric word-painting. Schumann’s late settings make enormous demands on the singer, apparent simplicity masking challenges of ambiguous and shifting tonality. Mein schöner Stern and Nachtlied were given with effortless composure as night closed in around us, and Requiem made a fitting conclusion to this richly textured survey, followed, as an encore, by Sängers Trost, a melancholy evocation of the comfort of the natural world to the artist.

Tritschler’s seriousness of purpose and vocal qualities set him apart in the younger generation of Lieder practitioners.

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