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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 :-) 

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. 

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. 

Song’n’jokes with Simon Keenlyside (Wigmore Hall, 27 May 2018)

27 May marked the ending of a very busy week, sometimes busy in ways that you really don’t need. On Monday thadieu and I witnessed the aftermath of a road accident that necessited air ambulance. On Sunday afternoon (27 May) someone rammed their car into our fence. Apparently nobody was hurt but the vehicle looked totalled and so is our gate. The cat bolted downstairs where I and the other cat were cooking (she with her back to the hob 😉 ) but he does that often enough that I didn’t overthink it. By the time I figured out what’d happened the Police and the Fire Brigade was already there.

Later on, a 10min downpour graced our area and it was exactly the 10min when I had to go to the station and catch the train that would get me into Central London for this performance. I have a humongous mint green umbrellaI I got the last time I had to sit through a performance in sloshing shoes… The joke this time: Central London was absolutely puddle-free and I must’ve looked like someone who’d jumped into a fountain to cool off their feet.

You can imagine that during the time it took me to get there via tube, my feet slowly pickling, I asked myself many times “is this worth listening to a baritone I barely know?” Well! It turns out it was.

Simon Keenlyside baritone
Malcolm Martineau piano

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Schwanengesang D957
Liebesbotschaft
Kriegers Ahnung
Der Atlas
Am Meer
Der Doppelgänger
Ständchen
An den Mond in einer Herbstnacht D614
Dass sie hier gewesen D775

Schwanengesang D957
Die Stadt
Im Abendrot D799

Schwanengesang D957
Das Fischermädchen
Abschied

Interval

Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)
Tel jour, telle nuit

Suite française
II. Pavane (solo piano)
Mazurka

Métamorphoses
Paganini

Quatre poèmes de Guillaume Apollinaire
L’anguille
Carte postale
Avant le cinéma
1904

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Voici que le printemps

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
Le secret Op. 23 No. 3

Cinq mélodies ‘de Venise’ Op. 58
En sourdine

Le papillon et la fleur Op. 1 No. 1

Keenlyside is an interesting baritone – I’ve never heard so much (well used) falsetto not coming from a CT! Softly spoken, he has a major ping in his singing voice, which, my seatmate confessed, is better experienced from the back of the venue than from the front rows… from under the overhang it was great. His German diction is excellent in the French good (and his pronunciation is better than most others’). His tone, more than anyone else I’ve seen so far, seemed to match the sound of piano – he’s the Steinway of baritones.

Still the best part is his deadpan humour, which imbued even the darker songs. It was very hot in the hall – because it was very hot in London (hence the thunderstorms) – and he was wearing a suit and used about 324676 handkerchiefs, plus glasses of water. At one point, both he and Martineau took a sip of water break! As I was saying, it was very hot and even the chatty seatmate was feeling sorry for him having to wear a suit, but as time went on the besuited attitude softened into the Frenchness of the set and he was cracking jokes left and right.

This was one of the most unexpectedly light hearted shows I’d been to, especially in spite of the pickled feet disaster. I like his style and the only reason I had not posted this before is because that heat was heralding things to come. Mid June was a bit cooler but OMG, July = oven. It’s still 27C here and it’s been that hot for weeks. Summer of 2018 = hottest English Summer since 1976 (probably hotter than that one by now). So if you’re wondering where all the other Summer 2018 posts are – well, I’ll get to them sooner or later.

Christine Rice MIA, Julien Van Mallaerts in de hause (Wigmore Hall, 18 June 2018)

I’m all for privacy but what is going in in the Rice camp, y’all? This year alone I was supposed to see her three times (January, March and June) and everything ended up cancelled. I hope things are on the mend, for everyone’s sake.

Wiggy presented us with a young upstart instead, namely baritone Julien Van Mallaerts, who is about to go to Bayreuth for some Wagnerian schooling. He did sound like that. The end.

😉

With Rice we were expecting a French programme (La voix humaine) so we at least got that (not La voix humaine – but wouldn’t it be fun to hear a baritone sing it?). You know I like ze French songse. His French diction is good (or I had a very good seat) and he seemed like he really got into it interpretively. Pity we didn’t know what was so funny, though based on the titles I’m sure it was. I need to get a bit more culture (not just about Madama Butterfly). I thought he had a nice, run-of-the-mill baritone but Anna wasn’t so sure it was a bari-tone after all (his low notes were a bit cloudy to me, especially if he wanted to do pp. He was at his best when he could employ bright and loud highs).

Whatever it is, it wasn’t offensive but nothing much to write home about as far as I’m concerned. How about a picture of Camden instead1? It was such a warm and gorgeous day on Monday, Anna and I decided to walk along the Regent Canal (yes, I wanted to take some pictures like I couldn’t after the last Lunchtime Concert when the battery died after two measly shots 😉 ).

not quite Venice but nice cow, eh?

Julius Drake was a treat twice within less than 24hours, though I thought he was a lot more interesting (like super cool) in the German programme. I commend that work ethic!

Julien Van Mallaerts baritone
Julius Drake piano

Henri Duparc (1848-1933)
La vie antérieure
Phidylé

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Fêtes galantes Book II
Les ingenus
Le faune
Colloque sentimental

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Histoires naturelles
Le paon
Le grillon
Le martin-pecheur
La pintade
Don Quichotte à Dulcinée
Chanson romanesque
Chanson epique
Chanson a boire

Encore:

Nachtlied Schubert


  1. It has come to my attention that I don’t post enough pictures, so there you go, nautical London. 

Mauro Peter (what, a tenor?!) (Wigmore Hall, 3 May 2018)

Contrary to popular belief, I sometimes pay attention to tenors. Even more unusual, sometimes I go to a show based on a single item on the menu. I’ll let you guess what that was.

Other than having noticed he’s said some silly things about Don Giovanni the character, I hadn’t heard Peter at work before. But I’m cool like that and didn’t let silliness deter me from hearing a potentially exciting Mozart tenor.

Mauro Peter tenor
Helmut Deutsch piano

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
An Silvia D891
Stimme der Liebe D412
Dass sie hier gewesen D775
Über Wildemann D884
Die Liebe hat gelogen D751
Wandrers Nachtlied D224
Im Frühling D882
Die Sterne D939
Hoffnung D637
Fischerweise D881
Auf der Brücke D853

It turned out open mindedness can pay off handsomely. As far as I’m concerned, he’s got a superb tone and a lovely placement of the voice, specifically tailored for those bright eyed, youthfully energetic yet rather dopey Mozart young tenor roles. I’m aware he’s currently hung up on Belmonte and I can definitely see why. If he sings him anywhere near me I will make sure to attend. All in all, a pleasure to listen to, kept me engaged all evening. He really has a lot of energy to spare!

There is enough heft to the voice and very good projection (no problems hearing him from the last row, overhang be damned), with superior diction in both German and French, but his pps are especially soulful and they were wonderfully supported by Deutsch. I’ve made an effort lately to pay attention to the piano accompaniment and I can say I enjoyed Deutsch light touches a great deal, along with his exciting story telling.

Sounds like Peter should stay in the German rep (don’t know enough about the French one to suggest, but I think tenors tend to be a bit lighter there? or am I discounting all French tenor roles in favour of the haute contre?), though I guess it would be interesting to hear some Italian stuff from him, just to see how it works out.

To conclude the first part, I was very happy with his bright eyed-cheerful rendition of my favourite Schubert ditty. Smiles all around.

Interval

Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
S’il est un charmant gazon S284
Enfant, si j’étais roi S283
Comment, disaient-ils S276
Oh! quand je dors S282

Im Rhein, im schönen Strome S272/2
Es war ein König in Thule S278
Über allen gipfeln ist Ruh S306/2
Vergiftet sind meine Lieder S289
Die stille Wasserrose S321
Ihr Glocken von Marling S328
Die drei Zigeuner

Encore:

something soft and sweet I didn’t recognise (sorry!)

Liszt’s French songs are all good and ever since discovering how much I like French song in general I was happy to hear them. He was very fine here as well and his French wasn’t bad at all (perhaps being Swiss helps).

One of those funny things particular to song recitals is having people (re)position themselves centrally only to have their noses stuck in the programme. It’s even funnier if said person is very tall and swings mysteriously into your line of vision. Luckily my seatmates on the left were defeated by part I (apparently it was very consistent-intense). As opposed to the fizzle surrounding the well established duo I’d seen two days before, this performance was a much quieter affair. However, those who did show up seemed very satisfied. I say check him out, if you trust my tenor picks.

Golda Schultz’s bright sunshine in the dead of winter (Wigmore Hall, 5 February 2018)

Sometimes you have an idea about a singer that is so far off the mark that you (I) discreetly check your ticket to see if you’re at the right performance 😉 I exaggerate but only so much.

Golda Schultz soprano
Jonathan Ware piano

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
An Chloe K524
Das Lied der Trennung K519

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Heimliches Lieben D922
Romanze zum Drama Rosamunde D797 No. 3b
Suleika I D720
Suleika II D717

Amy Beach (1867-1944)
Three Browning Songs Op. 44

John Carter (1929-1991)
Cantata

Encore:
Somewhere over the Rainbow
South African Song

I know thadieu will remind me that she was also in that ‘trovatore in Munich with Harteros but to me she has so far been Vitellia in this past Summer’s Curretzology in Salzburg. That time I had to use a mental shovel and push away quite a bit of currentz-balast but in the end I liked her and upon seeing that she’d be coming to Wiggy I seized a ticket.

Well! This was a very good opportunity to be reminded that singers play roles in opera productions and whatever you think you can glean about them during the performance might be very little of or very different than how they are like in real life.

I don’t know that I’ve seen such a cute singer before (Petibon, perhaps, but that’s different kind of cute; cute with a lot of life experience; Schultz is young-cute – somebody giddy-positive that all is right with the world and happy to be doing what they’re doing). I don’t want to detract from her artistry; with me cute is a very high recommendation indeed. So much for Vitellia!

Schultz has sung the Countess, I hear, but I think Susanna or Adina are emotionally more up her alley. Or Rosina (I know she’s way past Serpetta career-wise, but she would be a hoot! Or how about the witty serva in Pergolesi’s La serva padrona? Does anyone sing that anymore? I wish someone (her) did in London!). I mean I’m all for getting ahead in life but there was such a brightness and liveliness to her in this recital, I think (and it might just be me) would be a shame to waste on more serious roles at this time. Anyway!

It was fresh and bright and happy and it flowed seamlessly from Mozart to John Carter then I teared up during Somewhere over the Rainbow – but in a good way – happy for her that she’s made it.

I wrote this immediately after and thought it was too short a writeup, but, really, this is how the performance was: short and sweet.

Schubert with Angelika Kirchschlager (Wigmore Hall, 31 January 2018)

Angelika Kirchschlager is someone I’ve been aware of for what counts as forever but her contemporaries always appeared more interesting especially at a time when I was exclusively interested in opera and saw recitals as second best. As a result this was the first time I properly listened to her. It was a very pleasant semi-surprise.

Final concert in Schubert: The Complete Songs series
Angelika Kirchschlager mezzo-soprano
Julius Drake piano

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Namenstagslied D695
Frühlingsglaube D686
Geheimes D719
Im Frühling D882
Bei dir allein D866 No. 2
Lambertine D301
Am Bach im Frühling D361
Ganymed D544
Wiegenlied D498
In der Mitternacht D464
Erlkönig D328

Interval

Gesang der Norna D831
Der liebliche Stern D861
Romanze zum Drama Rosamunde D797 No. 3b
Suleika I D720
Suleika II D717
An den Mond D193
Der Jüngling an der Quelle D300
Der Wanderer an den Mond D870
Der Unglückliche D713
Lied des Florio D857 No. 2
Abschied von der Erde D829

Encore:

?

I went because I can be a bit of a completist and because I kept remembering her from that Mozart docu (that shows the gaudy pink wallpaper from his house in all its splendor – I think) where she made singing Mozart sound like the bees knees. She can’t be all bad if she likes Mozart that much, can she? Then again, she’s from his hometown so I guess it’s the law to love Wolfie.

Two first things first: 1. Hair. That’s some hair she’s (still) got going! It’s like Galou’s nose (which I managed not to mention all this time 😉 ); there is hair and then there is Kirchschlager hair. I’m sure it’s boring for her and other well-maned people to hear about it but wow. I’m saying that appreciatively, even though I’m not particularly into hair (or noses – still Galou’s: ❤ ). 2. Mezzo? I know these fachs are approximative and at this point in her career it probably doesn’t matter anymore, plus her tone is very pleasant. But: mezzo?

Whatever her exact voice bracket, she can spin a phrase and sing lieder non-operatically and still have enough dynamic variation to hear comfortably anywhere in the hall (her excellent diction helps as well). A very interesting experience – somewhat like Antonacci in the sense of filling the hall without any apparent effort and definitely without shouting. She’s very different from Antonacci, though, so don’t get the wrong impression. It’s a very gentle/congenial sound, even when she steps on the pedal in something like Erlkönig – it’s still not commanding. It’s so delicate it feels a bit old skool girlie, especially hearing her so soon after Boni, who has that quintessential boyish mezzo tone, with a bit of kick to it. I was thinking it would be interesting to hear them together, also I should give her Octavian another try. I’m more ready for a very girlie Octavian nowadays.

In any case, this was exquisitely sung lieder, a mix of well used experience and enough spontaneity and youthfulness. Sometimes something done in the simplest manner can have a strong effect.

Three men and a boatload of Schubert songs (Wigmore Hall, 24 November 2016)

For the past year or so, Wigmore Hall has been running a massive Schubert project, with the goal of having every one of his songs performed. Something for everyone indeed. And in this case, my favourite Schubert lied gets a deluxe treatment.

Stuart Jackson tenor
Marcus Farnsworth baritone
James Baillieu piano

Leichenfantasie D7
Das war ich D174a
Das war ich (fragment) D174b
Der Morgenstern (fragment) D172
Die erste Liebe D182
Jägers Abendlied D215
Grablied D218
Der Fischer D225
Abends unter der Linde D235
Abends unter der Linde D237
Lob des Tokayers D248
Punschlied: im Norden zu singen D253

Interval

Der Vatermörder D10
An Rosa I D315
An Rosa II D316
Fischerlied D351
Die Einsiedelei D393
Ins stille Land D403 x 4
Fischerlied D562
Die Einsiedelei D563
Des Fräuleins Liebeslauschen D698
Doch im Getümmel der Schlacht D732 No. 8
Wenn ich dich, Holde, sehe D732 No. 13
Totengräber-Weise D869
Fischerweise D881 😀

I’ll start with the helmsman, Baillieu, because he had some major workouts with the Schubert youthful epics that started the two halves of the evening and of course, the rest of the marathon. He kept the boat afloat and avoided any treacherous rocks 😉

I’ve seen Jackson in JC Bach’s Adriano in Siria and Jommelli’s Il Vologeso and was going to see him in recital anyway when spotting Fischerweise doublesealed the deal. I don’t recall encountering Marcus Farnsworth before but I liked his approach a lot. The two of them took the intimate approach to art song, relying on beauty of tone and focusing on words to drive the drama. Jackson got to forte a couple of times but his tenor is of the gentler type so eardrums stayed intact.

When Farnsworth stepped on stage he introduced the programme a bit, setting the mood as that of a workshop with public. I liked that idea. I’m definitely not adverse to singers singing several versions of a song if there is more than one. In fact, I would even enjoy the singer taking different approaches to a song within a recital even when there’s only one official version. If a recital is where we see/hear more of the singer than in a staged opera, why not share with us their different approaches to something?

Suffice to say the 4 different versions in a row – both tenor and baritone – of Ins stille Land were my favourite thing after my favourite thing 😉 You really get into the mood after one or two spins of the same thing and start to appreciate details.

There are probably other good reasons for them to share a recital but an important one is surely how well their voices fit together. It was almost like Jackson’s voice was a natural upper extension of Farnsworth’s. In any case, whether in duet of when simply alternating songs, the combo helped the evening flow smoothly for the ear.

Having them duet on Fischerweise was a special treat ending to a song-dense but very relaxed evening. There are quite a few renditions of the jolly fisherman’s story on YT and I can’t say I dislike the slow ones though I usually feel like cheering the singer with hearty come ons! but I tend to return to the ones with a bit of zing. The duet had plenty of zing and wink. Farnsworth’s serious, organised drive and Jackson’s cheerful, easy going persona (also coming through in the ode to Tokay wine) brought out the different aspects of the lied in a way that energised me and put a smile on my face that extended well beyond the time I got home.

Audience-wise, I am amused to report quite a number of couples comprised of very tall men and very short women. Behind me sat the two chattiest men in the world so at “lights down” I shot over 4 rows of seats to a central location I’d been eyeing since I first took my seat. Luckily the man at the end of my row was more than understanding and picked his things up in record time so I could make it out and around without further disturbances.

Though big name lieder nights are very well attended, the young singer ones seem not quite so. It’s too bad, because the very relaxed – occasionally even spontaneous – interactions and general breezy atmosphere is very welcome. After all, art songs were meant for informal evenings.

I don’t know if Wigmore Hall plans to release a boxset of their Schubert exploration but I hope so and I hope some of the songs in this particular recital make it on. In any case, I’d hear these two again.