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Wigmore Hall 110th Anniversary

Wolf Spanisches Liederbuch

Angelika Kirchschlager mezzo-soprano
Ian Bostridge tenor
Julius Drake piano

Wigmore Hall 13 September 2010

Following their performance of this demanding programme last month at the Salzburg Festival, Bostridge & Kirchschlager (she recovered from a cold which had made her cancel a solo recital at Wigmore Hall a couple of days before) brought nearly the whole of Wolf's Spanish Songbook to Wigmore Hall (Schotts advised Wolf against publishing the entirety; 'Wolf, of course, refused' [Richard Stokes]).

They don't make for as irresistible a concert programme as the Italian Song Book; there are too many heavy sacred outpourings and after ten of them it was quite a jolt to move suddenly into the more attractive secular items. However, it was good to have a (rare) opportunity to hear the Spanish Book as a (near) whole in recital, and this was a fine account of them.

Bostridge was the more committed and intense interpreter; Kirschlager unexpectedly restrained for those of us who have regularly been excited by her dramatic assumptions of operatic roles. The indefatigable Julius Drake was the hero of the evening.

The recital was recorded for broadcasting - check out BBC3 at the end of the month; I shall put it onto my iPod and listen to it in shorter groups...

Sarah Connolly in Schumann and English song

Schumann Abschied von Frankreich Op 135 No 1 Nach der Geburt ihres Sohnes Op 135 No 2 An die Königin Elisabeth Op. 135 No. 3 Abschied von der Welt Op. 135 No. 4 Gebet Op. 135 No. 5;
Frauenliebe und -leben Op. 42

Warlock Sleep
Bridge Mantle of blue Day after day Speak to me my love
Gurney By a Bier-Side Sleep
Britten A Charm; The Salley Gardens; Tit for Tat
Howells King David Come sing and dance

Sarah Connolly mezzo-soprano Eugene Asti piano

Wigmore Hall, 11 September 2010

This recital (a subsitution at short notice) was an exceptional demonstration of flawless mezzo singing, and it was a privilege to hear Sarah Connolly in an intimate venue.

A cause for remark was the exceptionally gloomy choice of texts brought together. Schumann took us through the dismal experiences of Mary Queen of Scots in her own poems prior to eventual execution. There was respite in the earlier songs of Frauenliebe und -leben, before tragedy struck the adoring wife with the death of her husband.

In the second half, lighter-seeming on paper, we were again plunged into mostly slow, death-ridden verse with little relief from thoughts of eternity. Masefield ended Gurney's By a bier-side with assurance that "death opens unknown doors. It is most grand to die...". Is this really what the elderly Wigmore Hall audiences want for their Saturday night entertainment? Maybe yes, and that it is slow music which moves us most...

Nevertheless, a remarkable demonstration of great singing by a leading artist at her completely secure best; sensitively accompanied by Eugene Asti, with balance good despite he having the piano lid on short-stick, which I generally deplore ever since the great Szymon Goldberg, at a Dartington master class, averred that that should never be done.

Berg, Beethoven & Bartók

Berg String Quartet Op. 3
Beethoven String Quartet in E flat Op. 74 'Harp'
Bartók String Quartet No. 1 Op. 7

Tokyo String Quartet
Martin Beaver, violin
Kikuei Ikeda, violin
Kazuhide Isomura, viola
Clive Greensmith, cello

Wigmore Hall, 12 September 2010

This welcome reappearance of the Tokyo Quartet as now is (only one founder member remains) "reprised their 1970 debut program of Berg, Beethoven and Bartok at London’s Wigmore Hall".

It was notable for the exquisite sound quality drawn from their Paganini Quartet of Strads, which the great man had owned and played durig the 19th C. Did the Tokyos use gut stings, it would be good to know?

The Harp Quartet was of a perfect euphony and unanimity that would have been hard for Beethoven to imagine. early Berg and early Bartok held no terrors for the gratifying full house at Wigmore Hall; not long ago such a programme (even the Beethoven his least popular quartet) would have serously reduced the audience.

The level of perfection in delivery echoed that of Sarah Connolly at the beginning of this Wigmore Hall 110th Anniversary Opening Celebrations; a strenuous weekend for us, the daytimes having been spent at the 2010 Kings Place Festival !

Peter Grahame Woolf