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06 September 2019
"Conveyed with dignity but with little nostalgia by both Prégardien and Gees."Fanfare, 21-2-2020
Schumanns late liederenDe late liederen van Schumann worden te vaak afgedaan als het product van een toenemend vermoeide, zieke geest. Toegegeven, met de vaak bescheiden, soms tergend chromatische pianodelen lijken ze ongrijpbaarder dan de liederen uit 1840. Maar er zitten meer dan genoeg mooie liederen tussen om het cliché te weerleggen dat Schumanns talent na de vroege jaren 1840 onherroepelijk afnam. Als de liederen uit 1849-1952 soms wat minder melodieus en direct zijn dan wil dat niet automatisch zeggen dat ze slechter zijn.
Wagners Wesendonck LiederIn de herfst van 1857 zette Richard Wagner een serie van vijf gedichten van Mathilde Wesendonck op muziek, in duidelijke navolging van zijn broeierige Tristan. Het was een van de weinige keren dat hij andere woorden dan zijn eigen gebruikte. De Wesendonck Lieder, zoals we ze nu kennen, werden herzien en voltooid in 1858, en voor het eerst uitgevoerd als een cyclus, in juli 1862 in een landhuis van uitgever Franz Schott. Elk van de liedjes heeft met Tristan het concept van de eindeloze melodie gemeen, een verzadigde, smeltende chromatiek – het muzikale symbool van ongestild verlangen – en een koortsachtige, beklemmende atmosfeer.
Precise vocal control, clear diction, intelligent musicality and an ability to get to the heart of everything he sings ensures Christoph Prégardien’s place among the world’s foremost lyric tenors. Especially revered as a Lieder singer, he can be heard this season at the Phiharmonie de Paris, the Palace of Arts Budapest, and the Wigmore Hall in London, as well as in Zurich, Lucerne, Kyoto, Tokyo and Bogotá. He will also perform at the Oxford Lieder Festival, the Chopin Festival in Warsaw, the Schubertiade Schwarzenberg Hohenems, as well as part of the “Schubert!” concert series with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Christoph Prégardien appears regularly with renowned orchestras the world over. He has worked with the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, as well as the Boston and San Francisco Symphonies, and with conductors such as Barenboim, Metzmacher and Thielemann. His wide orchestral repertoire includes the great baroque, classical and romantic oratorios and passions, as well as works from the 17th and 20th centuries. In opera, his roles have included Tamino (The Magic Flute), Almaviva (Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia), Fenton (Verdi’s Falstaff), Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni) and the title roles in Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito and Idomeneo as well as Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria.
His long experience singing the Evangelist roles, and his close working relationship with conductors such as Nagano, Chailly, Herreweghe, Harnoncourt, Luisi and Gardiner have provided him with the perfect basis for his increasing work conducting the works of Bach. Following the success of his conducting debut in 2012, leading Le Concert Lorrain and the Nederlands Kammerkoor in Bach’s St. John’s Passion, he has also become in-demand as a conductor this repertoire. In 2015 he led Le Concert Lorrain and the Balthasar-Neumann Choir, this time in the St. Matthew’s Passion, and in the following years returned to lead Le Concert Lorrain and the Dresdner Kammerchor on tour with Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. At a celebration concert for Philippe Herreweghe’s 70th birthday he also led the Collegium Vocale Gent. He will make his debut leading a symphony orchestra in spring 2019, when he will lead the Duisburg Philharmonic in works including Mozart’s Requiem.
The singer has recorded much of his repertoire on a discography which numbers over 150 records, which have received awards such as the Orphée d’Or of the Académie du Disque Lyrique, the Edison Award, the Cannes Classical Award and the Diapason d’Or. For the label Challenge Classics he has recorded Schubert’s Schwanengesang with Andreas Staier and Die schöne Müllerin with Michael Gees – selected as Editor’s Choice by Gramophone magazine and awarded the MIDEM Record of the Year – followed by Hugo Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch with Julia Kleiter, Between Life and Death, Wanderer and the Grammy-nominated Winterreise disc – all with Michael Gees – as well as Father and Son with his son Julian Prégardien. His Schubert CD Poetisches Tagebuch (with Julius Drake) was awarded the German Critics’ Award 2016. His most recent CD releases include A Matter of Heart – songs for voice, horn and piano with Olivier Darbellay and Michael Gees – as well as a recording of passion cantatas by Telemann and Bach with the Vox Orchester for Sony, where he appears as a baritone for the first time.
Teaching remains a very important part of Christoph Prégardien’s musical life, and in addition to his concert engagements he gives masterclasses worldwide for young singers. Following many years at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Zurich, he has been a professor at the Academy of Music in Cologne since 2004.
“Throughout the entire evening, Gees played as though he were the creator of the compositions, making sure that everything would come together as he had envisaged it. His eyes were not just those of a reproducing artist, but the flaring ones of one who is on fire, as we imagine a creative composer.”
Aged three, the piano is his favourite toy; from the age of five he receives formal lessons; aged eight, he wins the Steinway Competition as well as a scholarship enabling him to study at the Salzburg Mozarteum.
Hailed as the “Westphalian Mozart”, he trains at the Vienna and Detmold conservatoires and it seems as though nothing can stand in the way of a career as a pianist. The talented child, however, doesn’t want to be limited to technical exercises but instead longs to explore the world of sounds on his own terms, rediscovering it again and again, note by note.
At the age of fifteen, the “prodigy” flees the pressures of his predestined career, leaving behind his school, conservatoire and home, earning a living through odd jobs, as an archaeological assistant, and also by going to sea for two years.
In 1974, he is unexpectedly offered a place to study at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hanover. He develops his pianistic talent individually, composes and gains international renown as a first-class lieder accompanist, performing across the globe.
Through his playing he revives the long-forgotten tradition of using the work as an opportunity for extemporisation.
He goes on to found the Consol Theater which opens in 2001: here, children, teenagers and adults are encouraged and inspired to discover and realise their own creative impulses.
His own Forum Kunstvereint, alongside CPO and EMI, have issued numerous CDs with Michael Gees. As of 2007, he is associated with Challenge Classics: the recording of Die schöne Müllerin with Christoph Prégardien wins the 2009 MIDEM Classical Award and also Recording of the Year. Releases since then, including song recitals with Julia Kleiter, Anna Lucia Richter and Julian Prégardien, as well as solo recordings ImproviSatie, Beyond Schumann and Bach – Mendelssohn – Adaptations increasingly show Michael Gees in his element, treating the scores creatively.
Michael Gees programmes solo and song recitals between tradition and new ground. He has been teaching Vocal Improvisation and Song Invention at the Cologne Musikhochschule since 2009.
Conveyed with dignity but with little nostalgia by both Prégardien and Gees.
Since the first time I heard him many years ago I have been enamored of Christoph Pregardien’s voice. It is sweet and supple. His readings are almost always spot-on. His partnership with Michael Gees has been fruitful over the years.
American Record Guide, 19-2-2020
Another fine release from this superb singer.
Music web International, 13-1-2020
In his interpretation of the famous lieder cycle [Dichterliebe], he still follows a very vitalistic approach where he joins a youthful excitment to a flawless knowledge of each text inflection... the voice has less flexibility than before but it has gained in breadth and scale, which are ideal features for Wagner's Wesendonklieder... [Lenau-Lieder] Pregardien wonderfully conveys the composer's fragility and intensity, thanks to a most refined technique - impressive is the quality of the pianissimi in every pitch - and an impeccable elocution. Michael Gees, careful partner with a beautiful tone, plays a meaningful role in this recording great lyrical flying.