Edinburgh International Festival 2011 (5) – Intelligence, emotion, drama and fun in Angelika’s lieder recital

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Angelika Kirchschlager sings Brahms , Schubert and Mozart : Angelika Kirchschlager (mezzo), Helmut Deutsch (piano). Queen’s Hall, 19.8.2011. (SRT)

You can’t get much closer to the core German lieder repertoire than Brahms, Schumann and Mozart, and, with a singer whose association with that repertoire is so close, this was always going to be a morning of insights. Angelika Kirchschlager is a singer of the highest intelligence, both on the opera stage and the concert platform. For me the voice has always had a fundamentally dramatic core with the tiniest edge of steel to it. This made her a perfect storyteller in a thrilling rendition of Schubert’s Gretchen am Spinnrade and she sang the wilting lines of the Lied des Florio with subtlety and the right quantity of emotion.

If the more lyrical songs aren’t quite as well suited to her then they are still sung with wonderful intelligence and a tone that is never less than beautiful. She also summons a pleasing twinkle in the eye for Brahms’ folk-inspired Volkslieder and her tongue was firmly in cheek for a fun rendition of Mozart’s Zauberer. In fact, her finest moments came in the Mozart sequence, giving life and depth to the songs of a composer who is often overlooked in the Lied tradition. Kirchschlager is a singer as capable of plumbing the emotional depths of Brahms’ Von ewiger Liebe as of nature painting in Schubert’s Erlafsee, and she gave us a recital as varied as it was satisfying.

Helmut Deutsch’s accompaniment was fluid, sensitive and varied, cranking up the emotional tension where it was required by Brahms and Schubert, but providing sensitivity and variety so that the strophic songs never sounded reptitive. It was good, also, to see the Queen’s Hall so well filled for an artistic pairing of such quality.

The Edinburgh International Festival runs until 4th September in a range of venues across the city. A selection of performances will be reviewed in these pages.

Simon Thompson