Christoph Prégardien Winterreise at the Wigmore Hall Thursday 21st March, in Normand Forget's arrangement for chamber ensemble with Pentaèdre, and Joseph Petric, accordionist. This is an arrangement for wind quartet and accordion, released on CD 10 years ago. Why do some people still go berserk at the idea of transcriptions ? Music has always stimulated creative respones. The idea that it should be standardized fixed product is only very recent, more to do with consumer expectations than to do with music or musicianship. Winterreise in particular has attracted more arrangements than perhaps anything else in the repertoire. There are Winterreise arranged for guitar, different types of chamber ensembles and even for hurdy-gurdy. There are stagings, adaptations and dance versions. Prégardien's Winterreise with Andreas Staier on fortepiano is so good that it's an essential part of the discography. Julian Prégardien's Hans Zender Schuberts Winterriese is a through-composed "new" piece not a transcription, also best in its class (Please read more here).
Gustav Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen exists as song for voice and piano, the songs further adapted and incorporated in his Symphony no 1. Arnold Schoenberg's arrangement for small ensemble, was created for the Society for Private Musical Performances (Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen) in 1920. This was an organization of musicians for musicians, hence the title "private". Musicians only, dedicated to the analysis of new works. Some 154 pieces were examined, the concerts being the fruit of these discussions. Schoenberg's arrangement brings out the correspondances in the songs, showing how they form a true, unified cycle. This orchestration is restrained, expanding the piano line with subtle flourishes that suggest Spring and lightness. This delicacy works especially well for tenor, particularly one like Prégardien, whose timbre is pure and clean, suggesting youthful vigour. Prégardien's recording with Ensemble Kontraste on the disc Wanderer for Challenge from 2010 is wonderful a must for any serious Mahler listener.
Prégardien and Ensemble Kontraste also perform several of Wilhelm Killmayer's Hölderlin-Lieder II, which Prégardien has recorded in full. Hölderlin's verses are fragments - one no more than the phrase ".....wie Wolken um die Zeiten legt...." .which Killmayer sets with great transparency lots of white on the page, I suspect. But that's the essence of the poems : horizons stretch beyond articulation. Pinning down meaning would restrict and demean. Killmayer created two sets of Hölderlin songs, one for voice and piano, the other for small ensemble. The chamber version is exqusite. The flute tessitura runs very high, soaring upwards, defying gravity. A pervasive sense of rapture : the poet contemplating the mysteries of the universe, transcending the prison that is his tower. Lower, sensual murmurings from clarinet, viola and cello : single note passages like celestial light. Epigrammatic as these songs are, they evoke infinite possibilities. "Greichenland" sings Prégardien, in clear, bright tones : Hölderlin transfixed by shining ideals, the richness of the ensemble behind him adding dimension. Killmayer was a master of re-invention, expanding afresh the frontiers of Lieder.
Also on this recording, Marcus Maria Reissenberger's arrangements for small ensemble of 14 pieces by Robert Schumann. Reissbenberger's transcriptions are faithful to the basic piano line, the other instruments adding extra colour. Also interesting is the way he mixes songs from texts by Heine, Kerner and Eichendorff, (not all mega famous) with piano works, not in random order, but with a new logic. A tapestry woven from many threads.