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Past Events > 2020

Social DistanSong Day Seven: Robin Tritschler & Graham Johnson

03 April 2020, 10:00 - 23:55

On the penultimate day of Spring Song, we were looking forward to welcoming Robin Tritschler and Graham Johnson for a recital pairing Schubert and Beethoven. We're grateful to Graham for giving us an insight into the programme they would have performed, and to Robin for putting together a detailed playlist, with listening notes, for you to enjoy recordings of the complete programme. We also asked Katy Hamilton to have a chat with Robin about his approach to this music, the challenges in Beethoven's vocal writing, and Schubert's mature combination of simplicity and complexity.

Remember that you can find texts and translations of all the songs that were due to be performed today in the 'Explore' section on the main menu above, or by going to the original event listing and clicking on the Programme tab.

Graham Johnson discusses the connections between Beethoven's An die ferne Geliebte and Schubert's Schwanengesang:

Robin Tritschler chats with Katy Hamilton:

Robin's recital playlist, with listening notes:

Click here for the Spotify Playlist (you'll need to be a Spotify user to listen to this).

Robin writes: 'I put together this playlist so you can sit at home and enjoy the recital of songs Graham and I were to perform in Oxford today. I chose these recordings for an aspect of them which I found useful or impressive, and not necessarily for the entire performance. For this exercise I have not included my own or Graham’s recordings…..hopefully you will come and hear us live in Oxford soon. No record can truly capture the exhilaration of being at the concert hall and hearing a live performance, but I hope you enjoy this amazing music as much as I do nonetheless.'


An die ferne Geliebte

Peter Schreier, tenor, & Walter Oblertz, piano

Schreier gives a reliable and I think beautiful interpretation, however I always enjoy his attention to the small details. Listen to how he deals with every syllable of the word, especially the endings, and how his extracts as much as he can from the short notes. You can also hear the Schreier Special (his description, not mine); it happens when he changes tone mid note. This can subtly alter the emotion without changing the musical phrase.

Schubert & Mayrhofer

Der Alpenjäger D524

Stephan Genz, baritone, & Hartmut Höll, piano

There is wonderful energy captured in this performance. I like to add a sense of panic at the end, the young hunter is not as brave as he thinks.

Fahrt zum Hades D526

Robert Holl, bass baritone, & David Lutz, piano

Grace Bumbry, mezzo, & Sebastian Peschko, piano

I am listening for how the singer deals with the wide range of this song. Both singers are excellent examples of how to darken the colour to the voice without adding weight, thus enabling them to approach the higher passages with ease.

Philoktet D540

Mattias Goerne, baritone, & Ingo Metzmacher, piano

This is a fantastic performance, and utterly believable. I list it here to show that there is no one right way to sing a song as I interpret this song in an entirely different way, choosing instead to highlight the starvation and desperation rather than the combative nature of Philoctetes who is left alone on the island with no way of catching food.

Memnon D541

Janet Baker, mezzo, & Geoffrey Parsons, piano

Baker’s tone is incredible in this song. You can almost hear excess air escaping (it isn’t) mimicking the wind whistling through the cracks in the statue. I wish I could do something half as effective. She also beautifully crafts the devastating isolation, which is not easy to do with the tempo they choose.

Orest auf Tauris D541

Robert Holl & David Lutz, piano

The phrasing of the two opening questions is delightfully managed. I want to hear whether an answer or resolution is reached.

Atys D585

Peter Pears, tenor, & Benjamin Britten, piano

This recording was so striking to me that I actually remember where I was when I first heard it; waiting for a flight to London in Düsseldorf airport. Britten achieves a remarkable atmosphere from the piano, and Schubert’s longest postlude is treated magnificently. Meanwhile Pears seems completely unrestrained by rhythm, the words are as long or short as he needs them to be to share the young man’s heartbreak. Fabulous.

For a completely different interpretation and sound, listen to Elly Amyling’s performance.

Nachtstück D672

Sarah Walker, mezzo, & Roger Vignoles, piano

I marvel at the amazing legato Walker displays here. Roger helps this by allowing the accompaniment ebb and flow. Sarah always gives priority to the voice, then adds the text in a poetic way. Wonderful singing.

If I could have found Philip Langridge’s recording on Spotify I would include it too. I have it on disc. It is another recording that stopped me in my tracks when I heard it. His portrayal of the old man bravely facing Death is breathtaking. [You can find the recording, with Graham Johnson, here.]

Der entsühnte Orest D681

Wolfgang Holzmair, baritone, & Gérard Wyss

There is a wonderful directness here which is very difficult to capture in a convincing way. Orest is a proud old King. Holzmair manages to sustain the direct and strong approach until the final few bars when Orest pleads with Diana.

Der zürnende Diana D707

Heinrich Schlusnus, baritone & Sebastian Peschko, piano

This is a very difficult song, and at over 5 minutes long, one which could easily overwhelm any singer during a performance. The range is wide, and long phrases linger in the high register. This performance is a masterclass in how to manage the voice through such obstacles, and making sure you have something left for the climaxes.

Abendstern D806

Christian Gerhaher, baritone, & Gerold Huber, piano

Janet Baker & Gerald Moore

Listen out for any note that sounds ‘high’ in Gerhaher’s recording. Spoiler: You won’t find one. For a more emotional and dramatic interpretation, try Dame Janet.

Auflösung D807

Jessye Norman, soprano, & Philip Moll, piano

Their interpretation of this song would not recognise mine, but there is something admirable and thrilling in the commanding spirit and the fearless singing. There are lots of very clever things happening so the voice does not tire on the repeated high notes, leaving reserves toward the end to join the highest ethereal choirs.

Schubert & Rellstab

I do not need a recording to remind me of how these Schubert songs should be sung. Rooted in my brain is the memory of Robert Holl’s performance with András Schiff on 13th Oct 2018. It was a staggering display which moved me to tears throughout. The voice was not always at its best, but the artistry was impeccable. It takes a lifetime of study and experience to be able to paint the text as Holl did, and I cannot over state the emotional impact his voice had on the audience that afternoon.

For now, listen to this: Robert Holl & David Lutz

The majesty of Robert Holl shines through here. For our recital Graham included only the Rellstab settings of Schwanengesang, but once you start this recording, Holl will demand you, and you will want to, hear the Heine songs too.

Festival Passes

This event is part of a series:

Social DistanSong

In these strange and unsettling times, we're delighted to present our much-reduced virtual spring festival in place of Spring Song.  From 27 March to 4 April, we'll be bringing you exclusive content to enjoy from the artists and speakers who were due to take part. Artistic Director, Sholto Kynoch, tells us more about what's coming up in the video below... [youtube url=http...

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