Nathalie Stutzmann, Orfeo 55 (Wigmore Hall, 2 July 2016)
Time to brace yourselves for a non-linear entry which started out as an accident and continued along the lines of a live journal. Worth mentioning that NS and team will be returning to Wigmore Hall on 2 October with a Handel programme (they changed their mind from the more obscure one they initially advertised).
Nathalie Stutzmann, Orfeo 55 | Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Concerto in D major for lute and strings RV93
Sinfonia al Santo Sepolcro in B minor RV169
Stabat mater in F minor RV621
Ritornello di Medoro, Orlando Furioso
Lo sento in questo seno, Arsilda Regina di Ponto
Cor mio, che prigion sei, L’Atenaide
Agitata infido flatu, Juditha triumphans
– Adagio from Concerto for Strings in G minor RV156
Gelido in ogni vena, Farnace
– Concerto for Strings in C major RV109
Gemo in un punto e fremo, L’Olimpiade
Vedro con mio diletto, Giustino
Something or another playful! with plucking (you don’t say)! and soft and skippy singing! because quite obviously NS has a lighter side that won’t be cowed by her ability to convey intense anguish.
(Edit on 3 July) To round up the week of two (radically different) contralto(s experiences), we had NS and her “band” of very well drilled players. As we all agreed, it’s great to have a view of how the singer would want the music to go, meaning always supportive of the singing. That, without compromising the quality of the orchestral playing. It was a benchmark for me in that sense, of how to optimally balance the two sounds for best results, at least in a space the size of Wigmore Hall. The next challenge would be to see NS and team in a bigger hall. It’s also probably not very often that the singer and the orchestra are so organically linked. Leander mentioned at some point that all NS had to do once, whilst singing facing the audience, was to relax her shoulders and the orchestra immediately picked up on what to do next.
Though Gelido in ogni vena in the second half was thoroughly engrossing, the key to the performance was Stabat mater concluding the first half. This was, crucially, the first time NS turned around and started singing. So far it has been rare for me hear a performance where what specifically strikes me is that the singer not only understands the style and nature of the piece they are singing (all the good ones do that) but also fits the time period. This is a more mysterious thing and a singer either has it or not. I don’t think it’s something you learn (well, it turns out some of this you can learn); your voice and your personality has to work with the whole. NS, both in her singing and her personality, works with the feel of Stabat mater. It’s a quasi medieval feeling of old cathedrals, of awe mixed with humble restaint.
(And now for 6 July)
Lo sento in questo seno is the kind of piangent aria that reminds me in spirit of Mi lusinga il dolce affetto for how much effect one can spin out of its gently despondent woo-oos and sospiro, which NS has a particular knack for.
Cor mio, che prigion sei has what seem to be NS trademarks: plucked strings and a (lighter, very seductive) take on the aformentioned gentle despondency. This one is more akin to Summer afternoon wistfulness, with (my idea of) a strong urban Venetian feel cca ealy 1700s. I mean all of them sound like that (which is partly why we like Vivaldi) but with this one I can see Cavalier So and So pine for a particularly flirtatious damigella who’s smiled at him the previous night and has since not shown her face, though he hopes she’ll stroll under the lemon trees any minute now. See what I mean when I say NS fits that time period?
At the time it wasn’t my favourite piece but now on revisiting it (from the zetube link below) I’m quite kookoo over it… perhaps it’s the balmy afternoon. And because of that I can’t focus on Gelido in ogni vena and comments on that one will be further pushed… Blame Vivaldi – or NS.
Agitata infido flatu was furious all right but I prefer Ann Hallenberg’s take on it not only because I’m so used to it but also because a brighter voice seems to me better suited. Fury doesn’t become NS as well as seductive gentleness does.
Gemo in un punto e fremo is another nervous aria. The orchestra did a great job with dynamics (all of them that I can think of) to reflect the contrasts.
More than once during the evening I had the feeling the pieces sounded new and fresh, testimony to NS and her team’s imagination when revisiting 300 year old stuff. I want to command the exemplary legato dispalyed by the orchestra, most evident in the instrumentals. There were also old skool bows, in this case most of them (I’ll be quite bow-obsessed for a while, bear with me for the next few months, whilst I’ll try to train myself to tell the difference).
If you’d like to hear some of these pieces and others (such as Vivaldi’s Bassoon concerto), check out this zetube gem:
(second edit, 2 July) I am very pleased this got so many views for the effort I put into it 😀 but I’ve also felt a bit silly all day. Let me tell you one thing: she was very, very, very gentle in her singing and if you’re into that kind of thing then she was very seductive. And boy does she like the idea of plucking the strings – there was plucking in pretty much every piece. I like it too so I didn’t complain. And since she likes it so much there was a lot of creative plucking – lots of dynamics involved.
But do check Leander‘s take on it – she actually wrote about every piece!
(first edit, 2 July) Right, I didn’t mean to post this yet, this is just my pre-concert habit of adding the setlist. Somehow I hit publish… I don’t have time to write about it today but stay tuned tomorrow. There’s quite a bit to dig.