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Mahler & Wagner

Mahler: Piano Quartet Movement in A minor
Wagner: Siegfried Idyll
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde (arr. Schoenberg/Riehn)

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden/Antonio Pappano
Klaus Florian Vogt/Thomas Hampson

Cadogan Hall, London 27 February, 2011

Twice in a week we have enjoyed ideal concert experiences in which all the elements came together; Mozart at Wigmore Hall and this at Cadogan Hall.

In both cases the acoustics made an essential contribution, Wigmore Hall's giving lustre to Kristian Bezuidenhout's fortepiano and that of the beautiful Cadogan Hall (sold out for this Zurich International Concert and heard from the gallery where the sound is best) enhancing the richness of the chamber orchestra for Wagner and Mahler.

I knew of the reduction of Das Lied von der Erde intended for Schoenberg's Society for Private Musical Performance in Vienna, completed only in 1983, but had never heard it.

Pappano and his ROH players totally vindicated our annotator's claim that it had preserved "the delicate nuances of colour while losing little of the original's power and intensity". Yes! Five winds and strings each with piano, harmonium, celesta and percussion achieved miracles (only the harp did I miss !).

Thomas Hampson gave a worthy rendering of the songs more usually associated with low female voices (Ferrier, Baker etc) but the evening's palm goes to the tenor Klaus Florian Vogt, whose biography lists international credits in opera and concert (my link is to an interesting video of him in Parsifal).

Here at his ? London debut, we enjoyed fullest rewards from the reduced orchestration. Without visible strain (many tenors go red in the face trying to rise above the full Mahler orchestra) Vogt displayed easy command of it all, with a relaxed platform manner and plenty of power in reserve. He would, I felt sure, be equally persuasive as a song recitalist.

Vogt apart, Antonio Pappano held everything together with expressive playing from everyone, including his own piano part in the adolescent Mahler's over-extended piano quartet movement, and conducting a ravishing account of the Siegried Idyll.

Do hear this great concert's broadcast R3 March 3, or on BBC iPlayer Listen Again for a week afterwards.

Peter Grahame Woolf

See Classical Source: - - Klaus Florian Vogt was in full and thrilling Heldentenor mode for the opening ‘Drinking Song‘, tearing into the delirious, high-lying music with a will. He was full of charm and nostalgia in ‘Of Youth’ and delivered ‘The Drunkard in Spring’ with stirring abandon – this is a work that positively encourages binge drinking. Vogt was terrific, his singing passionate and full of the life that is winding to a close. Thomas Hampson was more detached, but found a secret inwardness for the opening of ‘The Solitary One in Autumn’ and a sense of wonder in ‘Of beauty’ – “were we really like that?”, he seems to sing. His fine-grained, subtly inflected voice, fantastic musicianship and easy high-range worked miracles in the tender, regretful beauties of ‘The Farewell’, with a powerfully played interlude that made the music sound effortlessly modern.
It was a great performance of this remarkable work, beautifully paced by Pappano, who gave the two singers space for a touch of tenderly drawn drama that connected powerfully with the audience - -