Beethoven • Schubert

COMPOSERS: Beethoven Schubert
LABELS: Wigmore Hall Live
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: An die ferne Geliebte; Im Frühling; Fischerweise; An Sylvia; Der Einsame; Nachtstück; plus songs by Britten & R Hahn
PERFORMER: Matthew Polenzani (tenor), Julius Drake (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: WHLive 0048

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Matthew Polenzani – a light, sweet-voiced, American lyric tenor – gave himself a gentle walk-on number at his Wigmore Hall recital in May 2010. In fact, Schubert’s Im Frühling sounds so laid-back that even intonation can suffer a little in a voice that characteristically tenses up a little at the top. But Fischerweise, with its ‘Lebenslust’ (zest for life), awakes Polenzani’s tenor and, by Nachtstuck, he finds intensity within a lightly held vocal line for the tender melancholy of the poet Mayrhofer.

After five popular Schubert songs, this well-structured recital moves on to a pioneering cycle Schubert himself admired: Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte. Julius Drake, everywhere a perceptive and supportive accompanist, gives time and space for these songs to breathe, and links them with beautifully played preludes and postludes. Polenzani’s is a sensitive, outstanding, performance.

He is immediately more at ease in the Italian language, and the light suppleness of his tenor facilitates an ardent, word-lively performance of Britten’s Michelangelo Sonnets. Polenzani and Drake wind down with Reynaldo Hahn’s six Venetian dialect songs, each one vividly characterised and nicely scaled – and with a winsome Danny Boy
as a warmly received encore.

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Hilary Finch