Recital at Wigmore Hall

Angelika Kirchschlager has long been a favourite at the Wigmore Hall and she returned this week as part of the Strauss Song Series which she headlines. She presented a mixed programme of Wolf and Strauss which aptly showcased her special abilities as a recitalist and those of her accompanist, Roger Vignoles.

Kirchschlager commenced with Wolf’s Lieder set to texts by Eduard Mörike. Wolf’s scene painting and subtle character delineation are much in evidence as well as his fondness for equivocal endings. Auf ein wanderung (On a walk) encompassed the full voiced rapture of “and one voice seems a choir of nightingales” to a surprising edge of resentment at “O muse you have touched my heart with love”.

In Im Frühling Kirchschlager traced the ambiguity of “Tell me, one and only love”, opened out in the ecstatic second verse and finally darkened her tone for “Twilit green and golden leaves? Past, unmentionable days”. The delicious double entendre of Begegnung where the stormy weather is an apt metaphor for a night of illicit passion and the desolate drama of Das verlassene Mägdlein were perfect fit for both singer and accompanist and Kirchschlager rounded off the group will the full throated ardour of Er ists (Spring is here).

6 Gedichte von Alte Wiesen (6 songs from Old Saws) sees Wolf in very different mood with much more opportunity for the performer to create larger than life characters. In Enter, lofty warrior Kirchschlager hilariously pointed a girl’s monumental scorn for her soldier boyfriend who presumably thought himself too grand for domestic chores! The small scale tragedy of When I walk in morning dew contrasted strongly with the coruscating self loathing of the The charcoal burner’s wife is drunk. The cycle concluded with How bright the moon shines with its delightfully bizarre vision of heaven in which a gruff St. Peter forsakes his nets for the cobbler’s last!

The second half of the programme consisted of nine Strauss songs chosen presumably for felicitous contrast rather than any compositional links. Kirchschlager has long been an expert in this repertoire and she did not disappoint despite the occasional evidence of a very slight indisposition. In Secret invitation she ranged from biting satire observing drunken gossips to breathless passion in “...and drink your kisses” and crowned the climax with the perfect contrast of the repeated final line “Ah come, o wondrous longed for night”. The elegant simplicity of You my heart’s coronet and To my child were the perfect counterpoint to Kirchschlager’s richly comic, over proud parent in Mothertalk.

Finally the perennial, but still welcome, favourites Morgen and Cäcilie, both rapturously executed, were preceded by the raucous character painting of For fifteen pence with Kirchschlager ably portraying both the dully self important Bailiff and his shrewish paramour. Despite her indisposition Kirchschlager generously offered two encores. Firstly the soaring rapture of Insatiable Love before closing with an aptly characterful Nichts. Once again Kirchschlager demonstrated her mastery of this repertoire and her generous rapport with her audience.

- Sebastian Petit