There is something special about the blend of voices among family members – witness the Everlys or the McGarrigals in the pop world – but there are few instances that exist in the field of classical music. German father and son team Christoph and Julian Prégardien, however, are two exceptional tenors in their own right and have been performing duets over recent years. Now they have taken their popular recitals with pianist Michael Gees into the studio for the Dutch label Challenge Classics. The result, Father and Son, is an entertaining collection of curiosities and rearrangements of what some may consider to be sacred cows.
The arrangements, mostly by Julian Prégardien and Gees, include 12 Schubert songs and were the product of rehearsals followed by in-the-moment improvisations, much like you would hear in a folk club. This, they argue, is in the spirit of contemporary accounts of the original Schubertiade evenings.
The Goethe setting Der Erlkönig divides logically into the two roles of the night-riding father and the son who dies in his arms. Other songs sit less comfortably as duets, for this listener at least, although the Prégardiens and Gees perform them all impeccably. Two little-known German composers are represented: Friedrich Silcher (1789-1860), whose four tracks includes a rather pallid setting of Heinrich Heine’s Lorelei; and Hermann Zilcher (1881-1948), who set five texts including one by Goethe and another by Martin Luther for two voices and two harmonicas. These are quite delightful, especially one about a drunk who can see two suns in the sky.
Works by Brahms and Schumann are also included and the disc closes with a charming good night song by Austrian-German composer Cesar Bresgen (1913-1988). This may not be an album for the purists, but the disc’s family chemistry makes for a convivial and highly enjoyable collection of songs.