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Dvorak & Schubert
Bernarda Fink (mezzo-soprano) & Gerold Huber (piano)

Wigmore Hall 29 April 2009

Fink and Huber are both world class artists who enjoy busy international careers so it was a pleasure to hear them recently at the Wigmore Hall in a song recital of the highest standard, rooted firmly in the classical tradition.

In the first half we were immersed in the songs of Schubert. We heard fifteen Schubert lieder in all including favourites such as 'An die Nachtigall' and 'An Sylvia' and rarer gems including a haunting performance of 'Die Gotter Griechenlands' and a rather brisk 'Nachtviolen'. The first half of the concert finished with six songs with texts by Goethe. This section was like a masterclass in Lieder performance and programming. We were delivered from the flurry of 'Rastlose Liebe' to the closeted lust of 'Geheimes'. This was followed by the innocent joy of 'Ganymed' - an all time favourite performance coloured by Huber's subtle precision and Fink's dramatic engagement with the story. This section also featured the sublimely tragic 'Wonne der Wehmut', a miniature of heartbreaking beauty, and closed with 'Suleika I', Marianne von Willemer's outpouring of love for Goethe.

Anton Dvorak was the featured composer of the second half. Five of the Biblical Songs Op.99 started the proceedings. These late songs were composed when Dvorak was in America as Director of the National Conservatoire of Music. There are 10 songs in total composed when Dvorak was coming to terms with the mortallity of family and friends. The songs themselves are very moving and spiritually comforting. Fink's performance was touching and direct - you really believed her spiritual fervour. The evening finished with Dvorak's Gypsy Songs Op.55 which includes the famous 'Songs my mother taught me'. This was another suitably stirring performance from both Fink and Huber. The dancing rhythms and gypsy spirit of the last three songs in particular saw Huber shine as he guided us through the gypsy sound world.

Fink and Huber performed from the heart of the Lieder tradition with great attention to the tiniest of details while constantly spinning engaging stories. I was riveted the whole evening and really felt both artists moving through all the emotions their chosen programme stirred in them. We were treated with Schubert's 'Lachen und weinen' and Dvorak's 'Goonight My Dear' as encores to this very special evening. By this stage, they were exactly what was expected - two more musical gems from two artists at the top of their game.

Tess Ormond