Songs of Love and Death

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COMPOSERS: Brahms,Schubert,Spohr
LABELS: Christophorus
WORKS: Brahms: Deutsche Volkslieder – selection; Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin – excerpts; Nachtstück, Op. 36, No. 2; Der Tod und das Mädchen; Die Nacht; Meeres Stille; Sei mir gegrüst; Der König in Thule; Nacht und Träume, Op. 43, No. 2; Der Leiermann; Spohr: Seven Lieder
PERFORMER: Christoph Prégardien (tenor), Tilmann Hoppstock (guitar)
CATALOGUE NO: CHR 77320

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Not content with performing Schubert first with fortepiano, then with vocal embellishment, Christoph Prégardien now turns to singing Lieder with guitar. And it’s a revelation.

The tension between voice and accompanist is changed, of course, but never less than creative. That’s largely thanks to Prégardien’s matchless enunciation, always subtly nuanced inflection, and guitarist Tilman Hoppstock’s ability to sustain a legato line through his nicely variegated and perfectly balanced plucking.

We’re not told if the arrangements are Hoppstock’s own. However, in ‘Das Wandern’ from Die schöne Müllerin the figuration colours most captivatingly the movement of water and mill-wheel. And both the coppery balladeer’s chords of ‘Der König in Thule’, and the circling drone of Die Winterreise’s ‘Der Leiermann’ really come into their own in the voice of the guitar.

‘Der Tod und das Mädchen’ and ‘Sei mir gegrüsst’ work a little less well – simply because the guitar is unable to recreate the metrical lilting of Schubert’s characteristic dactyls (long, short, short), nor the velocity of the keyboard’s movement.

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A handful of Brahms’s Deutsche Volkslieder are lifted out of the salon and into the clearer air of the serenader’s balcony. Moreover, Spohr’s Seven Songs achieve the lift-off for which they have long been waiting. Hilary Finch