Julian Prégardien: An die Geliebte
For his debut solo recital Julian Prégardien, son of Christoph, has devised an unhackneyed programme centring on the theme of the absent or unattainable beloved. Beethoven’s exquisite song-cycle immediately proclaims the 30-year-old tenor’s Lieder credentials: a gentle, lyrical timbre, plus an unforced sensitivity to text (a chip off the old block here) and the cycle’s oscillations between reverie and excited urgency. The opening song is tender and innig, while the second exudes a mesmerised stillness. Prégardien catches, too, the sudden yearning at the end of the delicately dancing No 5 and sounds truly exultant at the cycle’s close. In his crucial mediating role, pianist Christoph Schnackertz is limpid and rhythmically alert, if slightly too discreet for my taste.
As a counterfoil to the Beethoven, Prégardien offers Weber’s cycle in which four contrasting lovers react to the loss of their beloved, with emotions ranging from jack-the-lad bravado, via self-pity and melodramatic indignation, to the easy-come, easy-go protagonist of ‘Der Gleichmütige’, all too glad to be free of his tiresome girlfriend. Prégardien steers a fine line between vivid characterisation and caricature, never coarsening his tone for comic effect.
The inclusion of Strauss’s relatively rare Mädchenblumen may raise an eyebrow, though the composer actually dedicated these ‘Maiden Blossoms’ to a tenor friend. Once or twice here Prégardien’s tone tightens under pressure. But he and Schnackertz are acutely alive to mood and character, from the serene tenderness of ‘Kornblumen’, through the growing ardour of ‘Epheu’ to the mysterious, diaphanous ‘Wasserrose’. The choice of Wolf Mörike songs, too, steers away from the obvious. Prégardien is equally good in the mingled ardour and anxiety of ‘Lied eines Verliebten’, the shifts between soldierly swagger and drowsy homesickness in ‘Der Tambour’ (with an aching tenderness at ‘Da scheint der Mond’) and the rapt, starlit close of ‘An die Geliebte’. Schnackertz matches the tenor all the way in imagination, not least in the darting virtuosity of the seldom-heard ‘Lied vom Winde’, a whirling keyboard scherzo with vocal obbligato. This is my kind of Wolf singing – direct, unexaggerated, always minutely responsive to what the composer asks for – and sets the seal on a notable debut recital from a young tenor to watch.