Monday, 27 January 2014

Italian Lieder Luca Pisaroni Liszt Wigmore Hall

At the Wigmore Hall, London, Luca Pisaroni and Wolfram Rieger presented an inspired programme: Lieder in Italian. The core Lieder repertoire is solidly Austro-German. Writing Lieder in Italian poses challenges: different syntax, different sounds, different sensibilities. Pisaroni is Italian, and a very well established opera singer. He brought great insight to an unusual programme. 

Beethoven's In questa tomba obscura spans the cusp between Classicism and Romanticism. This song reflects the early 19th century fascination with death, but also the tradition of seeking inspiration from Classical Antiquity. Rieger played the slow, solemn chords so you could imagine an ancient marble monument. Pisaroni's dignified tone added human richness. Then, faster figures  suggesting wind and the rustling of leaves. One could almost visualize a landscape by Claude or Poussin. 

Having established the tone with Beethoven, Pisaroni and Rieger turned to the songs of Johan Friedrich Reichardt, born a generation before Beethoven and an associate of Goethe, Schiller and Gottfried Herder. Pisaroni sings a lot of Mozart, who also wrote art song, but Reichardt's settings of Petrarch fitted the Lieder-oriented programme well. In his first Wigmore Hall recital (more here) , Pisaroni sang Liszt's Petrarch Sonnets (S270) The Reichardt and Liszt settings compared would be a miniature lesson in music history. Hearing Reichhardt, one recalls Goethe's conservatism about song, and his supposed disregard for Schubert. The songs are beautiful, but formal: Liszt's settings are freer and much more expressive. Incidentally, Reichardt's daughter, Louise, an exact contemporary of Beethoven, wrote Lieder in a more "modern" style, and was highly regarded. 

Brahms Funf Gesänge  op 72, formed a bridge between Reichardt's almost pre-Lieder style and the 19th century sensibilities of Franz Liszt. Liszt's songs i n many ways aren't Lider is the Schubert, Loewe or Schumann sense but songs for piano with voice accompaniment. Liszt's more florid form suits an Italian temperament, even when the texts are in German. Pisaroni is wise to make Liszt another of his specialities. It's interesting to compare Liszt's version of the Goethe poem Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen aß with the settings by Schubert and Hugo Wolf. Reichardt and Zelter made settings of that, too. Liszt's Drei Lieder aus Schiller's Wilhelm Tell (S292) on the other hand are exqusitely vernal, piano decorations trilling brightly, creating the impression of spring and mountain vistas. I thought of those sub-genres, the Alpine operas of Catalani (La Wally) and even the Bergfilme of Franck, Riefenstahl and Luis Trenker, when Pisaroni sang the Der Alpenjäger, with a piano part as formidable as a rugged cliff face.

More conventionally lyrical and Lisztian, Die Loreley, which suited Pisaroni's gift for breathing sensual colour into words. Pisaroni and Rieger followed this with Uber Allen Gipfeln ist Ruh (S3062) and Die Drei Zigeuner (S320). Angelika Kirchschlager sang this with Yves Thibaudet at the Wigmore Hall last week (more here). Both very good performances, though very different. Pisaroni's bass baritone is swarthier and masculine, bringing out the male bonding implicit in the song, even if the tessitura is a little high. Rieger's assertive playing suggested macho bravado. For an encore, Liszt's Im Rhein in schönen Ströme (S272) and O Liebe, so lang so Leben kannst (S298/2)

This recital is available online for a week on BBC Radio 3 with the added bonus of Reichardt's Harpsichord Sonata. 

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