Matthew Polenzani and Julius Drake: "Schubert, Beethoven, Britten and Hahn"
Texts and translations. Wigmore Hall Live WHLIVE0048
In their live recital from Wigmore Hall, both Matthew Polenzani and Julius Drake display great poise. They evoke recitalists of past generations, unafraid to linger Lehmann- or Moore-like as the phrase strikes them. Setting out with a varied Schubert group, the duo gives a leisurely rendering of Schubert's "Im Frühling." Polenzani has the sovereign technique to support such lingering. Spotless in intonation at all dynamic levels, he has a particularly arresting pianissimo. This ease makes a notable pleasure of "Der Einsame," which Polenzani sings with more than the usual gusto for solitude, while Drake's deftly rendered pianistic crickets chirp along merrily. Schubert's "Nachtstück" becomes a dark mini-opera when Polenzani pours on the legato in the song's second-half aria.
Next, Polenzani and Drake give a cool reading of Beethoven's An die Ferne Geliebte. While the cycle's sudden sad turn at "Und Tränen sind all ihr Gewinnen" is effectively heartrending, elsewhere the pair underplays Beethoven's frequently abrupt dynamic contrasts. This is anything but the case in Britten's effusive Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo. The frequent stretches of high tessitura suit Polenzani's vocal gifts to a tee. The tenor rides the high, quiet lines of the third sonnet, "Veggio co'bei vostri occhi," with a vocal shimmer that is a voice lesson in messa di voce, while Drake supports him with the most perfectly even arpeggios to be heard on record. The effect of their collaboration here splendidly evokes the overarching yearning of these songs.
As a last set, the duo offers a fluffy group of Italian songs, which Reynaldo Hahn reportedly sang on the canals of Venice, accompanying himself on the piano in a gondola. They are what you would expect — sunny and pleasing, to be sure, but I was left wanting to hear more of the dark urgency of Polenzani and Drake's Schubert and Britten.
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