Schubert at St Andrews
Diedre Irons & Richard Greager
Saturday 4 June 2016, 6:30pm, St Andrews on The Terrace, Wellington
A personal opinion from Stephen Gibbs
Piano Sonata in a minor, D.784 – Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
6 Moments musicaux, D.780 – Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
7 Lieder from ‘Schwanengesang’, D.957 – Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Richard Greager, tenor
Diedre Irons, piano
This concert promised so much – two of the most experienced international performers in Wellington. And it lived up to my expectations.
The programme notes mentioned that Schubert wrote the Piano Sonata in a minor D.784 in 1823, the year he was diagnosed with the syphilitic infection which would end his life five years later. Maybe the sonata was a musical way of his coping with the news – an autobiography of his mental state. The three movements were almost a description of a grief process: anger, acceptance, furious resolve.
Diedre directed the Allegro giusto of the first movement at a funeral march tempo and certainly the beginning of the sonata had a despondent, despairing tone. It followed with a was heartfelt, anguished melody punctuated with angry outbursts. The exposition of the two themes were composed with homophonic chords with repeated, pedal notes in the bass – not counterpoint or scalic writing. The dynamic contrast was extreme, from pianississimo to powerful sforzando chords, and Diedre clearly defined the various voices in the piece. The second movement was completely different – not optimistic but resolved, with a niggle of doubt. The third was a furious gallop, almost symphonic in parts.
The Six Moment Musicaux on the other hand were vibrant. The first ternary piece had answered ‘horn calls’ and a serene, calm melody. The next piece had a minor tonality with a melancholy, sad second theme. The third, and Allegro moderato, was a polka with a piano version of a guitar glissando. The fourth movement, a Moderato, almost employed ‘hocketing’ – left/right octave movement of the melody. It was like ping pong for the piano. The fifth was windswept and tumultuous and the last movement had suspended chords and appoggiaturas with the resolution much later than I expected.
The seven Leider from Richard Greager and Diedre Irons was the highlight though.
Richard bracketed the six Henrich Heine poems and followed this with Die Taubenpost, poem by Johan Gabriel Seidl. It was an effective way of performing them – a love-lost tale. Again it was almost a ‘grief’ process involved: the optimistic stage of love, denial, anger, depression – and acceptance?
Richard was marvellous. He had a command, an authority over the songs. He breath control was effortless and he coloured the words flawlessly: from tender, passionate, angry, depressed and despondent. Diedre matched him in the expressive content of the songs. It would be churlish to isolate any one of the seven songs – the whole was much more than the parts after all – but the second [Am Meer], fourth [Der Doppelgänger] and sixth [Der Atlas] were particularly fine.
The programme notes noted that the last song, Die Taubenpost, ‘was really Schubert’s last song.’ It was a light, carefree song – maybe Schubert was resigned to leave the world behind. It was a good, affirmative note to leave the concert.