The Birmingham Post isn’t always able to post online everything that I’ve written for its print edition, so – after a suitable time lag (you should really go out and buy the paper!) – I’ll be posting my recent reviews here. As per the print edition, they’re all fairly concise – just 250 words. This is of a performance at Birmingham Conservatoire on Tuesday 18 October.
Sweet are the uses of adversity. It’s not that there was anything wrong with Christoph Prégardien and Christoph Schnackertz’s recital at the Conservatoire before, five songs into Britten’s Winter Words, all the lights failed.
It’s just that (after some smart work from the Conservatoire’s concert management), Prégardien and Schnackertz handled the situation with such grace and good humour that everything suddenly felt a little different – as if a bond had been established between audience and performers. The pair gamely performed the rest of their programme by daylight alone, at the mercy of passing clouds and to the accompaniment of metallic creaks from the slowly cooling spotlights. At the end, the audience erupted in cheers.
As well they might. Prégardien’s tenor is a lovely thing; flexible, fluid, with no break in tone quality between registers – it’s elegantly focussed in all areas. At the top, it’s ringing without being strident. At the bottom, where it shades towards a baritone, it’s marvellously oaky. I was reminded of a clarinet, but that’s to overlook Prégardien’s alertness to the text. He characterises lightly, with tone-colours – a quiet, confiding glow at the end of Schubert’s Um Mitternacht, a mix of fragility and robustness in Britten’s At The Railway Station, Upway.
But that’s all rolled into a long, sweet, singing line, deftly moulded to Schnackertz’s crisp, vivid accompaniments, complete with splashes of impressionist colour in Britten’s Midnight on the Great Western and a heroic swagger in Schubert’s Lebensmut. Each song came across as a single, natural whole, and under any circumstances this would have been a deeply rewarding recital. Shame and shame again, though, on whoever let their mobile phone ring mid-concert. No excuse: end of.