Robin Tritschler & Malcolm Martineau at Wigmore Hall – Schubert

“Winterreise is surely Schubert’s single greatest achievement in song, but he explored wider aspects of the season in other contexts, as revealed in this varied programme of Lieder composed during the winter months. Not necessarily all wintry in mood, the programme features songs that mix his personal isolation and torments with ones of a happier time.” [Wigmore Hall website]

Robin Tritschler (tenor) & Malcolm Martineau (piano)

Reviewed by: Amanda-Jane Doran

Reviewed: 3 October, 2018
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Robin TritschlerPhotograph: Garreth WongRobin Tritschler and Malcolm Martineau’s Wigmore Hall Schubert recital delighted the head and heart as his sweet lyrical tenor illuminated an eclectic choice of Lieder, a programme divided into Solitude, Childhood, Death, and Lost Love.

‘Der Einsame’ presented an introspective and cheerful narrative which Tritschler communicated with lightness of touch and descriptive variety of tone. This warm expansive reading banished any notion of the sadness of being solitary. Different facets of isolation were explored including the ecstatic anguished lover of ‘Nähe des Geliebten’. Tritschler’s attack was a little brassy here, but he certainly conveyed the visceral ardour of Goethe’s sensual words. ‘Der Winterabend’ emphasised the partnership between the singer and Martineau with trills and ornaments passed from part to part, exquisitely detailed by both. The highlight was Goethe’s ‘Nachtgesang’ (Night Song), which possesses a simple purity and grace entirely matched by Tritschler’s legato. This part of the programme was packed with carefully composed gems. Most concern observers of the natural world, reflective, blissful and melancholic, finding the state of their emotions mirrored in the beauty around them.

Childhood contained three songs, different perspectives and moods centred on the cradle, the first a simple ballad from a mother’s standpoint, the second a touching monologue by a single father cherishing his infant, and the last, ‘Vor meiner Wiege’, carried enormous emotional weight, a sombre contemplation of a baby’s vulnerability and the lost love of a mother.

‘Vom Mit leiden Mariä’ opened Death, an unusual, stylised, semi-religious setting. Hints of J. S. Bach chorales and C. P. E. Bach ornamentation were solidly provided by Martineau, offsetting the noble intimacy of the words enunciated with touching dignity by Tritschler. By contrast, ‘Fahrt zum Hades’ offers the Classical view of the Underworld, with no consolation, and contemplation of personal mortality continued with ‘Nachtstück’ in which Tritschler excelled: few non-native German speakers achieve this level of understanding and effect. A punchy version of ‘Der Tod und das Mädchen’ followed, with a quiet leering voice, and Death ended on a more transfigured sensual note with ‘Nacht hymne’, Novalis’s poem envisaging one’s demise as bringing elation.

‘Nacht hymne’ provided a passionate bridge into Lost Love. With ‘An mein Herz’ the listener was in anguished territory as an accelerated heartbeat gave a dark forward motion echoing the dejected state of mind of the lover. The gentle barcarolle ‘Alinde’ provided a lovely contrast, such melancholy extending into ‘An die Laute’. Loss of a different kind permeated ‘Strophe aus Die Götter Griechenlands’. Tritschler took an emphatic rather than a questioning line to start, emphasising the feeling of loss of the beauty of the ancient world. This extraordinary song expresses in eight lines all that Keats’s Ode on a Grecian Urn does in many stanzas; Schubert and Tritschler summoned up a complex philosophical and emotional landscape. The valedictory and exhilarating ‘Willkommen und Abschied’ made a fabulous climax: with tremendous assurance Tritschler communicated the physical thrill of a meeting with the beloved, while the velocity of the departure on horseback conveyed in the piano added to the excitement of the text.

For an encore Tritschler offered ‘Die Forelle’: attention to detail matched by vibrant golden tone.

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