With a programme intriguingly titled ‘Fabled Songs’ Robin Tritschler and Jonathan Ware certainly provided a recital packed with variety of styles yet with a compelling sense of unity. Our journey started with some recognisable Schubert songs to texts by Johann Baptist Mayrhofer predominantly narrating classical myths, but then in the second half moved to repertoire heard infrequently. It was for many a welcome voyage of discovery. Tritschler’s vocalism has real chameleon qualities, for he can deploy the softest, sweetest fruity tones and then suddenly switch to a rather more macho sound, characterised by a pleasing coppery edge. Long-breathed lines and subtle use of dynamics and vibrato were evident throughout.
Every song was performed without score, and his keen communication skills, involvement and gently wry humour bring dividends. Likewise, Ware’s pianism clearly relished the technical challenges of the Schubert songs, and the impressionism of the French songs of the second half of the concert in particular. Ware also made some vocal contributions by announcing each of the Geoffrey Bush Songs of the Zodiac, all these short variations closely linking the piano with the voice with great play on counterpoint and keyboard flourishes. These are delightfully whimsy and evocative songs, dedicated to the memory of Britten and Pears, and one could certainly sense from Tritschler’s singing that they were written with a Pears-type voice as part of the compositional tribute. Caplet’s Le loup et l’agneau, telling the story of a lamb’s fateful encounter with a wolf was replete with bleats, snarls and an engagingly cool narration, whilst the ambivalence of the texts of the five short songs of Honegger’s Petit cours de morale was evoked well.
The songs of Richard Hageman were of great interest. The first, Praise, had an infectious lilt akin to a cabaret number. Particularly memorable were the repeated final ascending phrases on the words ‘whenever they go to fetch water’ of the song At the well. Jonathan Ware’s colourful performance of the Spanish dances and rhythms of Miranda provided the additional visual thrill of watching his hands truly dancing on the keyboard.
The Schubert songs of the first half were full of vocal and textual nuance as well as many pianistic felicities. As examples - the murmurs of Der entsühnte Orest were beautifully judged, and Tritschler’s haunting soft singing of the ‘Du Heil’ge Nacht!’ section of Nachtstück lingered in the hall magically. There was an impressive building of tension in Auflösung to its final emphatic Geh’ unter Welt episode.