Schubert Songs on texts by Mayrhofer
Grieg 6 Lieder op. 48
Schubert Selected songs, including Nachtstück, Nacht und Träume, and Erlkönig
Songs on Sunday at the BMS
by Philip Hammond
If Schubert had never written anything else, he would still have a prime place in musical history for his songs. The range and wealth of invention in the piano parts alone were beautifully highlighted in the excellent playing by Joseph Breinl at the closing concert of the Schubert festival successfully promoted by the Belfast Music Society. Breinl’s absorbed and absorbing approach to the constantly varying accompaniments – accompaniments in name only – and his precise clarity of technique were the highlights of this concert.
It’s not an easy task to programme most of an afternoon recital from the six hundred or so Schubert songs at your disposal. The total of fifteen chosen in the two sets sung by Dutch mezzo soprano Christianne Stotijn tended to concentrate on the darker side of the repertoire. Maybe it was this thematic restraint which left me feeling that I hadn’t really experienced all the colours which may have been available from her voice.
Schubert’s friend Mayrhofer provided the poetry for the first set in this recital – all similar in emotional terms and eliciting attractively rich sound from the singer but one which varied little from song to song. The second Schubert set was equally depressing, for want of a better description, and there was scant characterisation or melodramatic detail in the soloist’s vocal timbre.
The intervening Grieg songs and the two encores by the same composer offered some light relief in an interestingly worthy but otherwise vocally unidimensional recital.
On Sunday afternoon, Dutch mezzo-soprano Christianne Stotijn sang a very full programme of songs by Schubert and Grieg, with pianist Joseph Breinl. Its hard to imagine a more perfect partnership, Breinl’s grasp of the mood of the songs matched to Stotijn’s soaring voice and clarity of interpretation. Hers is a powerful voice, even in tone from top to bottom, with a considerable range. The reverberation in the Great Hall was a little too much at times and the piano tended to swamp the voice in louder passages, but the resultant tension was well managed and became part of the interpretation. As the recital progressed, Stotijn’s delivery warmed and grew in expression. She has a way of making an audience listen to the music, even when the song has ended, drawing us fully into the moment.