Robin Tritschler/Graham Johnson review, Wigmore Hall, London: Some lovely Shakespearean discoveries among second-rate Schumann

The recital was robbed of some of its effect by the fact that Graham Johnson, kept the lid of his powerful Steinway fully open

Robin Tritschler is making a name for himself not only as a tenor with an unusually pure sound, but also as an adventurous programmer: his new CD No Exceptions No Exemptions is a fascinating collection of songs by poets and composers who fought for their country – France, Russia, and Germany as well as Britain – in the First World War.

One of those songs, by Benjamin Dale, was included in his Wigmore recital, but the rest of this programme broke new ground. After Schumann’s seldom-performed Kerner Lieder, he gave us a medley of songs by early twentieth-century composers which he grouped under the title ‘Songs from the (Bard’s) Shows’ – settings of the songs which stud Shakespeare’s plays.

The recital was robbed of some of its effect by the fact that Graham Johnson, normally the most sensitive of accompanists, kept the lid of his powerful Steinway fully open, thus drowning Tritschler’s more subtle effects.

And not even this singer’s artistry could disguise the fact that the Schumann cycle is second-rate stuff. Not all the Bard songs worked – those by Tippett were toe-curlingly arch – but those by Gurney, Finzi, Quilter and Korngold were lovely discoveries, as was Tritschler’s encore by Schumann – another Shakespearean setting.

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