Christoph Prégardien made a welcome return to the Wigmore Hall. He's long been a favourite among Wigmore Hall audiences, Thirty years ago I heard him there, singing Hugo Wolf. The audience was in raptures, Hearing him now feels like greeting an old friend. Prégardien is such a master that he delivers even familiar repertoire like six Schubert Goethe songs and Schumann's Dichterliebe with grace and conviction.
This time round, he was accompanied by Daniel Heide, a young pianist new to me. Hearing Prégardien and Heide together added to the experience. Accompanying Lieder is an art in its own right, it's not like being a star soloist. Interaction is everything. Heide listens sensitively to the subtle colours in Prégardian's phrasing. He's learning from one of the best. His introduction to Wandrers Nachtlied 2, D 768 (Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh') was mysterious, setting the right tone of reverent ambiguity. This song isn't landscape painting! A sudden change of pace and mood in Willkommen und Abschied, D 767 to chase the clouds away and prepare us for real highlight of the concert, Schumann's Dichterliebe op 48.
Dichterliebe gets performed so often that some Lieder specialists won't go unless the performance is something special. It's been a cornerstone of Prégardien's career, so I welcome any opportunity to hear him singing it. As one would expect, a very solid performance, well-articulated, executed with the thoughtfulness and finesse characteristic of Prégardien's style. Daniel Heide's playing impressed, too. Rich preludes and postludes, so important to Schumann's approach to song. In this collection of songs, it's not the flashy and showy that really count.
The two critical songs that test any performers, are Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen and Ich hab' im Traum geweinet. Both songs are surprisingly "inner", creating a psychological ambiguity that's way ahead of its time. Imagine how Schubert might have developed had he lived to further immerse in Heine! The strange, nebuolus glow of haze of a summer morning gives rise to the strange haze of the dream the poet experiences through a veil of tears. Gradually we're prepared for the truly strange and exotically lovely Allnächtlich im Traume. when the poet sleeps, a vision of his love appears, saying words of wisdom. Perhaps he's too terrestrial, because he's forgotten them by morning. Heide's postlude to Die alten, bösen Lieder captured Heine's sense of cheeky irony.
The encore was Schumann, too, Mit Myrthen und Rosen from Liederkreis op 24, another Prégardian speciality.