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Robert Holl & Birgid Steinberger with Julius Drake

Schumann and Schubert Lieder

Middle Temple Hall, London, 21st February 2013

Rather than attempt a song-by-song survey ourselves, on this occasion I prefer to refer you to an excellent review by Robert Hugill, which expresses our pleasure in an exceptional evening underpinned, as always at Temple Song by Julius Drake's insightful partnership and, I guess, contribution to the nicely varied programme.

Throughout the evening both singers remained on stage as they took turns, which contributed to a feeling of informality.

For us, the Schumann half was the more interesting, including a number of unfamiliar songs together with a few favourites. The programme might have gone better in reverse order with the Schubert selection first ? For encores, a couple of duets were enjoyed by us all.

Both artists were great seen live, communicating feelings visually and taking in the audience on all sides of this not easy hall, rather than singing straight ahead as some others had done.

More and more we are convinced that music is a visual art, and a DVD from this programme would be more than welcome, with Middle Temple Hall an ideal venue to create one.




Daniele de Niese with Julius Drake

October 3 2012 Middle Temple Hall, London

A notable song recital by this Australian born opera star, in London's splendid historic Middle Temple Hall.

A full programme of song in five languages, each sounding completely fluent and idiomatic, including the Norwegian.

Daniele de Niese is riveting to watch, with facial expressions and general demeanour which had her inhabiting every feeling and phrase of her sometimes quite recondite poems. Yet there was nothing over-the-top or inappropriate for recital manners. How could all this be done, I found myself wondering, with two eyes and a mouth?

I watched her face greedily (through a small window between audience members in the packed, flat hall) as well as skimming all the words from the programme book (in the original languages and English translations). Was it all contrived, or had it become completely natural and second nature over the long years since the young de Niese won a talent competition plus a grand piano at 9, and went on to become a celebrated opera star (q.v Cleopatra in Handel's Guilio Caesar).

Outstanding was Grieg's Haugtussa (a masterpiece, Julius Drake told us) a favourite of mine since the Flagstad recording was new. A group of Wolf favourites brought the first half to an end spotlighting Julius Drake with the near-impossibly virtuosic postlude to Ich hab in Penna.

After the interval - with wine for everyone - Daniele de Niese (looking equally splendid in a red dress as before) matched Poulenc's quicksilver changes of mood to delight and acclaim from a mainly legal audience, for whom most of the elusive poems would have been unfamiliar.

Indulgence had been asked for a throat problem which most of us would not have noticed. Some highish notes were less than beautiful; Daniele resorted to a water bottle often and told us that she, too (as well as the audience!) needed to cough...

After completing her heavy programme Daniele said she was surprised it had gone better than she expected and, tired but hyped-up, she & Julius launched into a couple of American encores, ending with "I hate men" - ? as a tribute to her great partner, who organises this fine Temple Song series.

When will we have the DVD - hopefully of exactly the same programme, filmed live of course?

Peter Grahame Woolf

See also: ENO's Guilio Caesar