Thursday, 2 May 2019

Julian Prégardien - Schumann Dichterliebe : an imaginative bouquet

Julian Prégardien and Éric Le Sage were preparing to record Schumann Dichterliebe op 48 when they heard of a new edition for Bärenreiter-Verlag by Hansjörg Ewert, based on Schumann's original autograph score, where the four lieder omitted by Schumann from the printed edition are included in the
appendix.  Since Dichterliebe op 48 is such a classic, which they're certain to perform in the future, this was an opportunity to examine how Schumann's ideas developed between early manuscript and final publication.  Prégardien, like his father Christoph, has always had the knack of exploring established repertoire from new perspectives, so approached the opportunity cautiously,  retaining the much-loved sixteen-song cycle , but extending the programme with songs, duets and piano pieces to create "an atmosphere around the a prologue and epilogue".  The  result is an attractive and imaginative bouquet, "mit Myrthen und Rosen, lieblich und hold", to borrow an image from from Liederkreis op 24/9. This is a programme for Schumann connoisseurs, since some of the choices are not as well known as Dichterliebe, but its charm should appeal to any thoughtful listener. 

In this edition of Dichterliebe, the textures are lighter, well suited to Prégardien's pure, clear tenor and Le Sage's fortepiano, allowing a performance that feels more intimate and unstudied than would usually come over in a modern concert hall.  Prégardien and Le Sage are almost certain to perform the standard Dichterliebe in future, so the true value of this recording is the sensitive way in which this version is enhanced by the other pieces around it, a true tribute to both Robert and Clara Schumann.   For the "prologue", Prégardien and Le Sage are joined by Sandrine Piau for the duet "An die Nacht" from the Spanisches Liederspeil op 74  (1849).  The voices are beautifully balanced, suggesting the harmony the Schumanns would have enjoyed in the happier periods of their marriage.  Robert's song is followed by Clara's Three Romances op 11/2 : the piano being her distinctive voice as much as it was his.  Le Sage's Blüthner from 1856 has a warm, natural tone and is played with fluid grace.   The ballad "Die Löwenbraut", Drei Gesänge op 31/1, to a poem by Adelbert von Chamisso, tells the tale of a girl and a tame lion, friends from childhood who must part when the girl gets married.  Maddened by grief,  the lion reverts to beast and kills the girl before he, too, gets shot.  A strange drama, but expressed with conviction by Prégardien and Piau.

Two settings of the folk poem "Wenn ich ein Vöglein wär", one by Robert (Drei Zweistimmige Lieder op 43/5, the other by Clara. The first is a deceptively simple round for two voices, done here with great delicacy. The second is more conventional Lieder, the voices in unison.   Robert's "Aus den Hebräischen Gesängen" (Mein Herz ist schwer) (Myrthen op 25/15), offers much darker contrast,  setting the mood for Dicheterliebe with its contrasting, complex imagery.   Prégardien's "epilogue" after Dichterliebe flows smoothly, with "Kurzes Erwachen" (Sechs Frühe Gesänge WOO 21/4), "Sängers Tröst" (Funf Lieder und Gesänge op 127/1 and two of the three Romanzen op 28/1 and 2) with Éric Le Sage . Pulling the programme together, "Mein Wagen rollet langsam", (Vier Gesänge op 142/4, where the pianoforte line flows, contrasting the steady pace of the wagon with sparkling inventions that express the good humoured banter in the vocal part.

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