COMPOSERS: Brahms,Schubert,Schumann and Bresgen,Silcher,Zilcher
LABELS: Challenge Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Father and Son
WORKS: Works by Schubert, Silcher, Zilcher, Brahms, Schumann and Bresgen
PERFORMER: Christoph & Julian Prégardien (tenors), Michael Gees (piano), Fabienne Waga, Patricia Messner (harmonica)
CATALOGUE NO: CC 72645 (hybrid CD/SACD)
This latest release from Christoph and Julian Prégardien, father and son, is a real treasure. The idea of Schubert in the form of duets, trios and partsongs is hardly new. The composer himself loved writing for intimate duos and ensembles, and poured out songs (all of them included in Graham Johnson’s magnificent Complete Schubert Edition for Hyperion) for domestic delectation.
So, the decision of Julian Prégardien and pianist Michael Gees to arrange several Schubert Lieder for two voices and piano is hardly controversial. What makes this anthology so enriching is the skill of their arrangements – and the fact that Schubert’s songs are framed, and given context, by those of his contemporary, Friedrich Silcher, and the turn-of-the-century composer Hermann Zilcher. There’s Brahms and Schumann, too – and even a fascinating setting of Eichendorff’s verse by one Cesar Bresgen (1913-1988).
The Schubert arrangements take harmonies and lines of melody which exist already in the inner fabric of the writing – and realise them vocally. At times, in the very simplest of songs such as the Goethean Wandrers Nachtlied, the confection can seem slightly over-egged. But a strange new poignancy surfaces from Der Zwerg. And this version and performance of Erlkönig is one of the most thrilling on disc, with its spectral duo for the voice of the Erlkönig himself, and its wild acceleration in the final stanza.
The two tenors of father and son – shared DNA, complementary tints and timbres – blend with grace and glee. The Zilcher duets for two voices and two harmonicas have to be heard to be believed.