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Berg, Brahms, Sibelius & Strauss songs

Karita Mattila soprano Martin Katz piano

Berg Sieben frühe Lieder

Vergebliches Ständchen Op. 84 No. 4; Der Gang zum Liebchen Op. 48 No. 1
Meine Liebe ist grün Op. 63 No. 5; Von ewiger Liebe Op. 43 No. 1

Illalle Op. 17 No. 6; Vänskapens blomma Op. 57 No. 7; Demanten på marssnön Op. 36 No. 6
Våren flyktar hastigt Op. 13 No. 4; Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings möte Op. 37 No. 5

Der Stern Op. 69 No. 1; Wiegenlied Op. 41 No. 1
Allerseelen Op. 10 No. 8; Frühlingsfeier op 56 no 5

Wigmore Hall, London, September 10, 2010

Karita Mattila is certainly a diva. She flounced onto the stage in sparkling dresses and jewellery; there was even a change of costume in the interval! Everything was carefully tailored to raise the excitement of the audience. Pre-concert it was announced to the audience that Karita had a cold but ‘the show would go on’. Murmurings and chinese whispers followed in the audience; "she can hardly speak, she’s on antibiotics"... Alrght on the night, as so often in like situations in London winter.

Was this a ploy to evade vocal criticism? Maybe audiences are too apprehensive these days. Her voice, despite illness, was huge and luminous. There were, however, moments when she did not seem quite in control; some dodgy intonation and swooping up to notes a little too frequently. That said, the recital was thoroughly enjoyable as Karita’s effervescent personality came across. Karita’s acting, turning away from the audience at the end of Vergebliches Ständchen and a dramatic waving of her arms in the hedonistic Frühlingsfeier, may have been a little on the crude side however it certainly made things come to life. After declaring if she had any sense she would not sing anymore she dedicated Zueigung to the audience; a luxuriantly cheesy finish entirely in keeping with the rest of the evening.

For me the true star was the pianist Martin Katz, who, although diminutive in stature next to Karita, offered some wonderfully sensitive playing. It has to be remembered that Lieder are written for two parts of equal importance and the piano often has the most illustrative line. The Brahms was gloriously bassy and there was a lovely change of colour in Von ewiger Liebe where the girl starts singing.

Not a recital of the highest musical finesse, but fun audience-entertainment, culminating in a standing ovation. It was impossible not to warm to Karita.

Anna Michel