Category Archives: wigmore hall

Christian Gerhaher as natural resource (Wigmore Hall, 28 November 2018)

It’s not for nothing that my last post regarding Christian Gerhaher involved a white horse: he’s on the mild side of the typical baritone. Last night I kinda felt a few moments of darker teething but they stood out exactly because they are so unusual for him. As do his bottom notes, which seem like a different language than he normally speaks. Whenever he ventured there (not often), it hit me: oh, he’s a baritone! Not that he normally sounds like a tenor; he normally sounds like Gerhaher. He has all the warmth of the baritone but none of the nastiness habitually associated with the term.

It seems that everybody likes this White Chocolate of baritones, because the house was packed like a charismatic church on faith healing day. Bring me your old, bring me your young, bring me your sick and bring me your healthy! Just keep the poor home 😉 Kidding.

In front of me sat the unlikely pairing of a younger but portlier James Levine-lookalike who only needed half a phrase to brag how he’d already seem Gerhaher 100 times1 and a sedentary grasshopper, with the pernickety air of a retired mechanical engineering teacher, currently masquerading as a skyscraper (seriously, he was the tallest person I’d ever seen in my life), next to me the Islington version of Stephen King kept his nose in the programme because words are important, ffs! and behind me two people in wheelchairs were in the midst of a conversation about Ermonela Jaho’s skills as Violetta.

I’d never met a Jaho fan2 before, so I had to turn around and see who was standing up for her to this extent. That was when a fashionably bearded Bismarck walked past, along with a lady sporting that droopy cheek and eyelid thing so specific to certain English physionomies – but only after I spotted her exchanging double cheek kisses with some gent. Clearly the lady voted Remain. We also had the bald patch + straw hair mullet “conductor from the provinces”, a male movie star from the 1940s (he looked exactly like that, with his slicked back parted hair, hard done by eyes and suit) and minorities from 2018. Basically the entire country, for the past 150 years.

Christian Gerhaher baritone
Gerold Huber piano

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Sei mir gegrüsst D741
Dass sie hier gewesen D775
Lachen und Weinen D777
Du bist die Ruh D776
Greisengesang D778

Wolfgang Rihm (b.1952)
Tasso-Gedanken (UK première)

Franz Schubert
Abendbilder D650
Himmelsfunken D651

Interval

Hugo Wolf (1860-1903)
Goethe Lieder
Harfenspieler I
Harfenspieler II
Harfenspieler III

Alban Berg (1885-1935)
Vier Lieder Op. 2

Hugo Wolf
Mörike Lieder
Begegnung
Lied eines Verliebten
Auf ein altes Bild
Auf eine Christblume II
Schlafendes Jesuskind
Goethe Lieder
Grenzen der Menschheit

Lady: how did you like the Rihm?
Gent: I didn’t dislike it.
Lady: I didn’t like it but I didn’t hate it.

Maybe you know this piece, I didn’t, since it was a UK premiere and, duh, contemporary. What do I know, right? Well, I know now that it sounds like you imagine it. The above descriptions are very apt, even though they lack in imagination.

What it brought to my (very imaginative) mind was the bell curve of adrenaline rush. When a person is pissed off and adrenaline kicks in, it takes exactly 90 min3 until the person calms down. During that period, the person will do something regrettable at least once, but possibly more than once, in quick succession, depending on 1) how annoying/lacking in diplomacy the people around are, 2) whether they have wisely vacated the premises and taken cover, 3) whether there is suitable property just waiting to be destroyed. In the end, arousal will drop below the person’s garden variety level, due to exhaustion. This is when you rush in and acuphase the composer 😉

Why nobody hated it is because it was sung by White Chocolate on white horse Gerhaher. I didn’t hate it either, although I quite possibly dozed off for a minute or two of those 900, only being sprung back to contemporary reality during the spikes of regrettability, known as tuneful shrieks. Artists always embelish reality, so the structure of the composition didn’t mimic science to a t.

Other than that it was a delightful performance. The Jaho fan commented that Gerhaher started very softly but 1) everyone does, because duh, 2) I like it, 3) Gerhaher’s chief attraction to me is how he can make himself heard anywhere (that I’ve seen him, which is exactly two places) very clearly both in volume and diction-wise, without having to max the ping, which he doesn’t have, anyway. He doesn’t need it, his tone is civilised and sensitive, the addition of ping would be akin to opening a fast food joint on the first floor of an ecohouse.

The other chief attractions are 1) how well he collaborates with the accompanist – I love singers who don’t sing in the vacuum of their glorious talent and intelligence <3, 2) no phrase ever sounds dull.

You know how some singers will focus on this or that part of a song/aria and make that it all nice and polished, because they’ve decided that’s the bit that matters – but leave other words/parts to hang limp and sound uninteresting, like they’re just there (bad librettist/poet!). Well, he doesn’t. There are other singers who manage that (hint: the ones that I like), of course, but he’s one them. The whole is really a whole, not just a clever pun with leftover dressing.

Now I need to see if I can get returns4 for his Winterreise.


  1. I was compelled to run mental calculations on how many times a year he had to have dutifully trotted to Gerhaher recitals or Tannhauser
  2. It was him that was in the midst of the conversation, the lady was rather to the side of it, gauging his enthusiasm against her willingness to see yet another Traviata, (probably the 500th, relative to her age vs portly Levine’s). 
  3. Not 89, not 91 – exactly 90. Kidding 😉 but that’s the ballpark. 
  4. I got this ticket as a return, too :-) 
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Roberta Invernizzi, two lutes, one viola da gamba and beguiling canzoni (Wigmore Hall, 19 November 2018)

I love these one shot (no interval) lunchtime Wiggy concerts! It’s usually pensioners and music students – and people who eat music on rye for lunch 😉 I try to get the day off for them, because otherwise they are really inconvenient for anyone working shifts but sometimes needs must include good ole’ skiving 😉 Put yourself in my place: 17th century love songs vs. Monday1 at work. I don’t care how much you love your job, music should win or you’re reading the wrong blog.

Anyway, I was only 1 1/2hrs late, so I’m keeping my respectability, especially after looking like I saved the day from a short on staff afternoon! Baroque heroes, you’ve got nothing on me.

Roberta Invernizzi soprano
Rodney Prada viola da gamba
Craig Marchitelli lute
Franco Pavan lute

Giulio Caccini: Dolcissimo sospiro; Dalla porta d’oriente

Johannes Hieronymus Kapsberger: Passacaglia

Claudio Monteverdi: Ecco di dolci raggi; Disprezzata Regina from L’incoronazione di Poppea

Orazio Bassani: Toccata per B quadro

Girolamo Frescobaldi: Canzone a basso solo

Tarquinio Merula: Folle è ben che si crede

Luigi Rossi: La bella più bella

Johannes Hieronymus Kapsberger: Arpeggiata

Sigismondo D’India: Intenerite voi, lagrime mie; Cruda Amarilli

Claudio Monteverdi: Si dolce è’l tormento; Voglio di vita uscir

Encore:

Giulio Caccini: Amarilli, mia bella from Le nuove musiche

It’s been a couple of weeks or so from Lemieux with nothing – nothing! The upside is you really appreciate the musicians’ efforts after a drought. As soon as Invernizzi spun out the very first trill I was all how I wish I could do that! And when the lutes kicked in I thought this is it, I was born to listen to this 😉 I also, quite unusually, had a seat at the front of the venue, which, with Invernizzi works well as you get all sorts of nice dynamic transitions. This is the kind of concert where there is so little time, you need to be on from the moment you step on stage.

I really enjoyed her in this rep – probably my favourite performance from her. She has the style down pat and she didn’t either force or hold back, she was completely at home. As usual I liked the jaunty songs best (Dalla porta d’oriente has the same tune as Vi ricorda o boschi ombrosi) but Disprezzata regina by a soprano wasn’t a bad idea at all. It was a lot less stark and brutal than the recent one from Salzburg (it seemed like 2 lutes made a lot more noise than Christie’s entire band) but her tone and her investment worked nicely indeed. Voglio di vita uscir, a favourite of Baroque recitalists, with that playful start that belies its glum title, was, unsurprisingly, giddier than usual.

All in all, this is exactly my idea of a Monday lunchtime concert – content and presentation. I don’t know that I have words for how emotionally close I feel to this stuff. Might as well sneak in another Venice picture, though not everything above comes from Venice.

remember what I said about nighttime walks in Venice?


  1. Mondays and Wednesdays are the busiest for us. 

Lively Invernizzi on BBC 3 Lunchtime Concert

What better way to start the week than a mini-performance of 17th century songs? Luckily, BBC3 agrees and you can too sample Invernizzi and friends’ delightful one hour show from earlier today.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux looks for that mythical place (Wigmore Hall, 2 November 2018)

My first encounter with Lemieux was via my favourite Vivaldi aria:

Having to pass the test of a favourite is the tallest order for a anyone but she did it brilliantly. Since then I’ve kept an eye out for her stops in London. I eventually saw her as the Sphynx in Enescu’s Oedipe, testimony to her wide-ranging repertoire.

She didn’t sing this last night, but that aria is a surprisingly good example of her temper. She actually is like that in a recital.

MNL to late comers: (signals to Vignoles) let’s stop for a moment and greet the new arrivals. Please, take your seats.

MNL to people who haven’t turned their phones off: you have two seconds to turn it off.

MNL to people who rush out before the encores: bye-bye, see you soon!

Hahaha! What a heroine! Others (who had come on time, stayed until the end and had turned off their mobiles) enjoyed the attitude so much, the applause started to materialise at random times, which resulted in MNL requesting for people to applaud at appropriate times. Haha! That being said, she gave us a very sweet and emotional thank you in the end, so she clearly did appreciate people who were into the performance.

ps: I really enjoyed her choice of jewellery – black squares for the German rep, and silver “chainmail” for the French.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux contralto
Roger Vignoles piano

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Kennst du das Land? Op. 98a No. 1
Lied der Suleika Myrthen Op. 25

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Der Musensohn D764
Ganymed D544
Gretchen am Spinnrade D118

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Wonne der Wehmut Op. 83 No. 1
Die Trommel gerühret Op. 84 No. 1

Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-1847)
Harfners Lied
Über allen gipfeln ist Ruh

Hugo Wolf (1860-1903)
Goethe Lieder
Blumengruss
Frühling übers Jahr
Kennst du das Land

Interval

Ernest Chausson (1855-1899)
L’albatros

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
Chant d’automne Op. 5 No. 1

Déodat de Séverac (1872-1921)
Les hiboux

Gabriel Fauré
Hymne Op. 7 No. 2

Gustave Charpentier (1860-1956)
La mort des amants

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Le jet d’eau
Recueillement

Henri Duparc (1848-1933)
L’invitation au voyage
La vie antérieure

Encore:
more Goethe one of which was Connais-tu le pays?

So much vitality! And a surprising amount of cheerful songs; most singers have a tendency to take themselves very seriously in these recitals – which might just be their personality and we probably love them exactly for that – but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can be funny and silly and show off your technique and understanding of the text at the same time.

I really liked the German songs, rather surprisingly, since usually if there is a selection of French and German and the singer is French, I’ll go for the French chanson – but somehow I felt the German stuff fit her better. How unusual! I don’t know if I’m right, because there was of course nothing wrong with the French stuff. Perhaps the juxtaposition oomphed the German material, which had more Lebenslust, dare I say, whereas the French songs were more languid (Le jet d’eau, for instance; though Les hiboux was very cool and so was Chant d’automne1). But, considering she returned to Goethe for the encores, it’s clear she enjoys the German rep a lot.

I was further surprised how much time she spent in the top region of her voice. She went from very conversational, typical “lieder singing”, to booming for effect (better turn that phone, off, buddy 😉 ) and from the top to very secure (but not super low) bottom on enough occasions but on the whole was more mezzo than contralto, not that’s a bad thing. There is a reason my mezzos-and-contraltos section is labeled thus. I also enjoyed her and Vignoles’ communcation with each other, which added to the charged allure of the evening.

Between Galoumisù two weeks ago and Lemieux last night, the French connection has been happily reestablished.


  1. I don’t know if this is about “pitting” Goethe and Baudelaire, because in literature I did enjoy Baudelaire a lot sooner than Goethe. To be fair, I have been behind in re-reading the classics in recent times… I won’t say “I didn’t have time” because that is a shitty/laughable excuse; I simply did not return to the readings of teenage years. 

French disconnection

As you can probably see from the lack of activity, this October has been a bit inconsistent. When I saw someone’s been checking out that fun Karin Gauvin post from a while back, I got rather irritated because I was supposed to see her again today. I did not get there, due to freak Victoria line issues (and since it was a lunchtime concert, if you don’t get there on time it’s really not worth the hassle of running there and then running back to work and having to explain your rather conspicuous lateness). This is bad enough but exactly two weeks ago I was supposed to see Sandrine Piau. I did not get there, due to a cold that was at its worst on that specific day. So much for seeing one or more French singers a month (you might remember that was a staple for a while there).

Live from Wigmore Hall: Dame Janet Baker in conversation

Check it out tomorrow, 30 September, on Wiggy’s livestream. It’s at 3pm London time, so it might be a bit weird, but I believe it will also be rather interesting, especially for mezzo fans 🙂 I’ll be around, from the comfort of my lounge, and will give a bit of a running commentary in this very post, if everything goes the way it should 😉

So, here I am. Janet Baker and Simon Callow talk about her seeing Lotte Lehman at Wiggy in the late ’50s, who came in her hat and gloves, which stopped Baker in her tracks. Apparently Lehman was very intimidating, including to the young Baker, who found her teaching style lacking in spontaneity, having to do everything exactly the same way Lehman wanted. Baker felt greatly inhibited by this. She wondered about the generation gap being similar today.

Callow: who did she admire at that time in her time? Sena Jurinak.

Acting: connecting with the thoughts of the character = both agree. As the narrator in the church nativity play, she felt very serious about it and also “in charge” of the play, and being confident she was “right” in what she was doing, unlike the others in the play 😉

Words and music: as important as each other.

Friends play teddybear picnic on the piano = reprehensible 😉

(Certain) rubbish church songs vs Bach = no contest 😉

G&S = also terrible, haha. Reacted strongly to “quality as she saw it” since a young age. She’s since changed her mind about G&S. All great but she’s never wished to sing it herself 😉

Voice: teachers apparently could tell she had a good voice by age 11, as per a school friend, she’s quite surprised how anyone could tell so early on.

Callow: says she realised early on that she had a responsibility towards her talent (to nurture it); a sense of destiny = she agrees. Baker: surely you felt the same way? Callow: nope. he loved theatre but her no experience with training. Wrote to Laurence Olivier about the wonderful theatre he was running and LO wrote back, inviting him to work at the box office 😉 not too bad! Would this ever happen today? Very unlikely. CV >>> enthusiasm for any medium.

She thinks she was very “gullible” when she was told not to sing for two years. Callow thinks she was way disciplined for a young person. This was when her voice was changing from high soprano to mezzo.

Both acknowledge luck, as they met people without “shopping around” for teachers etc. and the choices one makes (having a children and family etc.).

Talks about her Austrian teacher (see also: the conversation with JDD). She really enjoyed lieder, which was what her teacher specialised it. She says she enjoyed singing in German, German language in general and the love of words developed further. She was also singing in the Glyndebourne Chorus at the same time = she says it was luck that all came at the same time.

Acting

Callow: how was she so naturally in character? Baker: mind/heart/body coming together = acting. Callow: not all actors have that either – after 3 years in drama school, he was able to say convincingly “My lord, the carriage awaits!” 😉 Baker: John Copley and Peter Hall taught her to act as far as “the mechanics” go. Callow: says she can transform with a minimal amount of makeup (specifically in Les Troyens). No generalised rush of emotion. Baker: Peter Hall said she was dangerous because she took risks (don’t we love that 😀 ). She says she doesn’t teach beginners because she wants to dig deeper when acting, because at that point you need to expose yourself, which she acknowledges is a lot to ask, but it’s necessary (as a good actor) and it never bothered her. She thinks it’s because of how she cares so much about the power of words so she just goes with whatever is required by said words. Callow: he was surprised how the very big emotions fit the limits of her voice. Baker: trusted her solid technique, practiced every day, before whatever she sang, though it was tiresome, so she didn’t have to worry about it later. Lucky she had teachers who suited her. Because of this she was able to focus on her acting on stage. She worked for 30+ years busy all the time.

On retirement: relief! Not having to wake up and sing. She says younger singers coming up and having their turn = natural. Likens her singing to raising children – at one point you have to let it go.

Baker: as actors, do you learn discipline to see you through? Callow: yes, physical and vocal (dancing, singing = to warm up). The attitude towards voice in theatre changed in recent years. Voice = no longer considered for its expressive qualities. Actors are increasingly wearing microphones. Body becomes slacker and less expressive – physical excitement lessens. Diction, rhythm = not so important today. With actors it’s not just the voice = talent, it’s a bundle of things (personality, physical package). Doing 8 shows a week = needs good character (mental stamina) to do it 8 shows a week for 3, 6, 12 months at a time or 40 takes on a movie set. The challenge = to keep the reality of it. Acting = “images of destiny”. Baker’s Full Circle book = Callow praises it.

Opera productions: respect the composer and libretist. Costumes also important = supports your imagination of who the character is. Critices “busy-ness” on stage (I agree!). Callow: opera is ahead of theatre in experiementalism. Seems ambivalent about many different angles but no Wagner with urinals. Midsummer Night’s Dream in a box = ok, thinks it worked.

Farewell: Orfeo handing the lyre back. Chorus gave it back to her 😉

Dorothea Röschmann returns (Wigmore Hall, 10 September 2018)

Judging by the recent interest in certain older posts, I see you’re dying to find out if I attended to DR show at Wiggy this past Monday. I did! No schedule is too busy or September too cold1 when specific singers are in town.

It’s been almost two years since DR’s last Wiggy date. In the meantime her biggest engagement in London has been second cast Desdemona at ROH, which I read was very fine although I didn’t attend because late Verdi.

Surprisingly, this time she was the most relaxed and perhaps even happy2 that I’ve seen her. Wisely she stayed close to the middle of her voice for most of the show, though, DR being DR, she had to spread her wings on a few occasions, especially after the interval. She can still hit the heights, though it by no means feels particularly easy – or clean sounding, for that matter. But the middle is as full and as attractive as always and the lows have gained a commanding gravitas.

Her pianissimos were all beautiful and deftly executed and the pathos was of course there, as it has this funny tendency of clinging to her. I enjoyed the piano singing so much that I wanted her to continue like that for the next couple of days (or years) 😉 Yes, the time has come to visit with DR for the soft singing. Who’s complaining? Not me.

Dorothea Röschmann soprano
Malcolm Martineau piano

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart Op. 135

Hugo Wolf (1860-1903)
Mörike Lieder
An eine Äolsharfe
Das verlassene Mägdlein
Erstes Liebeslied eines Mädchens
Begegnung
Denk’ es, o Seele!
Auf ein altes Bild
Verborgenheit

Interval

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Alte Liebe Op. 72 No. 1
Auf dem Kirchhofe Op. 105 No. 4
Der Tod, das ist die kühle Nacht Op. 96 No. 1
Unbewegte laue Luft Op. 57 No. 8
Liebestreu Op. 3 No. 1
Meine Liebe ist grün Op. 63 No. 5
Wir wandelten Op. 96 No. 2
Nachtigall Op. 97 No. 1
Von ewiger Liebe Op. 43 No. 1

Encore:

Die Lotosblume (Schumann)
Es muss ein Wunderbares sein (Liszt)

It was a low key thing but rather relaxed low key than super intense. I really liked Die Lotosblume, she gave it a gentle delicacy that plucked at my sometimes not easily pluckable heartstrings.

In related news: Mitsuko Uchida casually attended the show (it’s always good to have another top accompanist on hand, lest your audience makes complicated travel arrangements and the show gets cancelled due to accompanist issues; just sayin’…3) and Wiggy has refurbished its toilets for the Autumn Season! Let me assure you Salzburg has nothing on Wiggy anymore, the toilets are a sight to behold 😉 if half your audience disappears after the interval you know where to find them (the restaurant is cool, too).


  1. yes, gentle reader, it’s that time of the year again – the time to start complaining about how cold London gets without being actually cold. We’ve had a great summer, yay! – but it’s over, oh, so over. 
  2. she’s always struck me as a very private and even shy person so even when she’s happy it may be difficult to read it as that. But this time she smiled on a good few occasions. I’m not sure I’ve seen her smile a real smile before, although she’s regaled us with her share of silly songs. 
  3. it’s the second mezzo this year who’s done the two strikes and I’m not shelling out for tickets anymore jig. 

Sara Mingardo, Francesca Biliotti and the hunt for Monday lunch (Wigmore Hall, 21 May 2018)

along Regent’s Canal

This was the second time in recent years that Mingardo came to Wiggy for a Monday Lunchtime Concert, which is a short but sweet (re: informal) deal. This was also – concidentally (ha!) – the second time thadieu did the same 😉

Since it was a very early performance and the day looked good for London (pretty warm, no rain), we decided to make a day out of it and by 11am we were already at the train station (neither one of us is an early riser).

The idea was to find a bubble tea place but there aren’t a lot of them in London and I definitely wouldn’t know one way or another. Thadieu found two online: one in Camden and one in Wembley. Now since Wembley is just one block away from the Outer London area better described as There Be Dragons, Camden it was. However, by the time the train got moving it became pretty clear that the bubble tea had to wait until after the show.

Sara Mingardo contralto
Francesca Biliotti contralto
Giovanni Bellini theorbo
Giorgio Dal Monte harpsichord

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
Settimo libro de madrigali
Ohimè, dov’è il mio ben, dov’è il mio core? ‘Romanesca’
Con che soavità, labbra odorate

Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643)
Toccata nona

Claudio Monteverdi
Settimo libro de madrigali
Vorrei baciarti
Voglio di vita uscir, voglio che cadano

Settimo libro de madrigali
Non è di gentil core
O come sei gentile

Giovanni Kapsberger (c.1580-1651)
Canzone prima

Claudio Monteverdi
Zefiro torna e di soavi accenti

As you can see, the show was pretty much Settimo libro de madrigali with two contraltos (for the price of one). We had fifth row centre seats, thanks to Baroque Bird, so we saw everything and heard Mingardo and the harpsichord really well. She was in very good spirits and smiled more or less through the show. It’s quite unsual to be in a position to feel a contralto is loud but Wiggy’s first few rows can offer you that opportunity. Her top is bright as it is and it came through.

Biliotti, on the hand, was more reserved, which I chalked up to nerves. The times we heard her she showed off a very nice voice (especially in the duets). Dal Monte was manning the harpsichord the last time we saw Mingardo and he played the same solo piece. Last time I didn’t get much out of it but this time I slightly warmed up to it. It’s actually a lot shorter than I remembered it 😉 The Kapsberger piece for theorbo was one of those things where you go “and that was the theorbo”…

So once the performance was over I suggested we go directly to the Green Room and give our thanks to Mingardo. Thadieu was already in omg, omg-fan mode but, as I was saying, if you want to say hello and thank you for the music to your favourite singer there is not better place than Wiggy after a Lunchtime Concert. We walked backstage and found a very tiny queue ahead of us, consisting of a few friends of Biliotti’s (she’s based in London) and a lady I see at practically all the Baroque shows to the point I even wonder if she’ll be there before I get to the venue (she always is).

Then came our turn and we told her how we’d seen her in random places around Europe as well as Detroit for thadieu, which always gets a surprised look. As you probably know from thadieu’s account, the omg, omg-fan mode worked against us securing the picture we actually got with her but we still have the nice little conversation and her gracious nature.

After us she sort of walked to the side (by the fireplace) as if to catch her breath from all the attention and let Biliotti hug her friends from the Monteverdi Choir, which she later introduced to her. Thinking we could get a shortcut, we turned the first right and ended up on the Wiggy stage 🙂 The venue looks rather small from there!

HOME IS WHERE FOOD IS

To get our bearings a bit, we decided Camden was close enough to walk, so we cut through Regent’s Park and then walked along the canals – not on par with Venice but still a scenic route. The skies darkened a bit but it didn’t really rain before we got to Camden. Once in the Camden Market, which is just off the canal, we tried to find the bubble tea place.

The market is a maze of stalls and most of the time your best direction is it must be here somewhere – but we found a good Samaritan who all but said to us when are you going to ask me to show you the way? We’re liberated women so we ignored him until he actually pointed the way because he was listening in (what’s a hero in waiting to do?). We found it, upstairs and around the corner, because the market in a nutshell is upstairs/downstirs, turn right, turn left, past that fake exotic food stall then past that incense stand.

It was shut down, empty inside – much like our stomachs. So there we were, at about 2:30pm on a Monday, with one Vietnamese restaurant in my old general area shut on Mondays and another one thadieu was fairly sure would be breaking until the early afternoon. That’s the small problem with early shows on a Monday, you might end up starving in your own town – or break down and have a sandwich. Anyway, we still made our way to the bus stop just as it started to rain in earnest. We caught one of the new “vintage” Boris-double deckers that you can board from the back and the seats are more comfortable than they look.

As we finally arrived in Finsbury Park the skies started to brighten, but our luck not so much. The first restaurant was so shut and bolted you couldn’t even consult a menu (leftover from 2011’s riots? Locksmiths made a mint that August). The second one would indeed open by 5:30pm. Thadieu was in that faint stage of barely able to walk for lack of nourishment. I was proceeding with determined haste and a grim face, braincells able to put together one thought only: must.have.food.now.

We decided it was best to take a sandwich leftover pitstop because there was no way we were going to make it to the park itself (where I initially suggested we hang out until opening time). Whilst we were scarfing down the Pret Sandwich of Goodness (as per thadieu) on the stoop of a townhouse, we heard the air ambulance pass us over. The sandwich perked us up a bit so we walked to the park and saw there had indeed been a pretty serious car crash by the station, traffic diverged etc.

By now the sun was out again and we went and sat on the grass in the park and watched the paramedics do something to the gurney. Some guy got into an altercation with the cops over something undiscernable and thadieu marvelled at how long they took to talk sense into him.

Eventually the air ambulance took off a lot less noisily than I thought it would and went off. With that we also returned to the restaurant and were the first to sit down and consult the menu that day. Food at long last! Though some locals who came after us were served first. We overordered but the food was good and I’m not one to say no to takeaway 😉

Jakub Józef Orlinski celebrates 100 years of Polish independence (Wigmore Hall, 13 June 2018)

You know how I always say that if the singer is French, the Wiggy audience gets a major influx of French speaking people, if the pianist is Korean – etc. Well, in this case there was an extra reason everybody seemed to speak Polish – the concert was broadcast on Polish TV and it was part of the celebrations around a century of Polish independence. It was a bit weird being there casually, as a lot of people around me seemed to be patriotically invested in the event.

I do actually have a personal story to go with this, and it’s as usual rather amusing. You know how we in Eastern Europe are always mixed with this and that. Well, so am I. For the longest time the story – told by mum – was that I was part Polish on my dad’s side. A couple of years ago she goes “oh, Czech, like your people”. Of course I was like :-O! “wait a second, didn’t you say we were Polish?” And she was like “oh, one of those!” She, who makes a way bigger deal about her heritage than I do, was so casual about my heritage! You can imagine that for a moment or two the pillars of my identity got a good shake. I may not make a bog deal about it but I do care about accuracy. Anyway, I’m none the wiser (due to complicated communication issues within my family), but thanks to the confusion I felt a bit (more?) Polish that night.

Jakub Józef Orlinski countertenor
Michal Biel piano

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Inumano fratel … Stille amare Tolomeo HWV25

Henry Purcell (c.1659-1695)
Music for a while Z583
If music be the food of love Z379c
What power art thou (Cold Genius aria) Z628
Strike the viol Z323

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Auf der Donau D553
Die Stadt Schwanengesang D957
Nachtstück D672

Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947)
A Chloris
Mai
Paysage
Fêtes galantes
L’heure exquise

Interval

Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937)
Kurpie Songs Op. 58
Lecioly zórazie
Wysla burzycka
Uwoz mamo
U jeziorecka

Tadeusz Baird (1928-1981)
Four Love Sonnets

Pawel Lukaszewski
Jesien

George Frideric Handel
Agitato da fiere tempeste Riccardo Primo, re d’Inghilterra HWV23

And indeed, in spite of the Handel arias, I actually enjoyed the Polish songs best, as Orlinski sounded to me very relaxed and at home in them. He has style (including versatility), intelligence and sensitivity, as well as presence and a very bright and enjoyable top, only lacking a wider range. There are a few countertenors I’ve heard so far who have a certain segment of their voice where things are top notch and they, quite understandably, march on arias and parts that showcase that particular segment. It’s not hard at all to figure out what that is, as you will hear it again and again during a recital. It’s of course, pleasant like witnessing a homerun, but it does also point to the limitations of a voice.

Die schöne Müllerin with Pavol Breslik (Wigmore Hall, 22 July 2018)

Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828)
Die schöne Müllerin D795

Pavol Breslik tenor
Amir Katz piano

Last week was very hot and busy and I actually did not check to see what Breslik was singing before arriving at Wiggy. My carefully laid out plans had me bailing out at intermission not because I anticipated not enjoying myself but because I had work which I wasn’t able to swap.

Both I and my seatmate, strategically placed at the end of the row, started to consider the likelihood of upgrading, seeing as how it was sparsely attended – as many shows are, at this time of Summer. So we got to talking and he mentioned the lack of intermission. In the end I stayed for the duration, only skipping the encores (the first of which was Erlkonig, as I overheard from the lobby).

I find it curious that this was Breslik’s Wiggy debut, as he’s been around for quite some time. My first encounter with him was the Munich Lucrezia Borgia but the piece in which I actually appreciated his efforts was Haim’s recording of Il triumfo del tempo a di disinganno, where he was Tempo in that great lineup.

Anyway, the miller-maid was all right in his interpretation, though not beyond1. His voice has darkened and thickened since Tempo though it’s still got a certain allure. It was a bit monocolour but he pushed the ff pedal with the best of them, at times the sound even got distorted.


  1. Since hearing Gerhaher’s Magelone I really enjoy a narrator with song cycles.