By John Y. Lawrence
Those hankering for the rare opportunity to hear Christoph Prégardien on American soil must have been pleased Sunday afternoon, when he gave an all-Schubert recital at Mandel Hall as part of the University of Chicago Presents series. At the piano was Julius Drake, perhaps the preeminent lieder accompanist working.
The duo’s program exactly matched that of their 2015 album, Poetisches Tagebuch. The first half was settings of nine poems by Ernest Schulze. These are lesser-known Schubert songs, and perhaps rightly so, lacking the dramatic variety of the better-known songs programmed in the second half. The closing set also featured a clever back-to-back juxtaposition of visions of a carefree life in “Fischerweise” and of a grimly careworn life in “Tötengräbers Heimweh.”
Prégardien is 62 years old. So, it would be customary here to say something about how good he sounded “for his age.” For most of the concert, no such qualifier was necessary. He sounded good, full stop.