Concert 4. Wednesday 7 January 2015 Print

MALIN CHRISTENSSON soprano

JOSHUA ELLICOTT tenor

SIMON LEPPER piano 

 

A celebration of love featuring songs and duets for soprano and tenor

by Schubert, Brahms and Schumann

Click here for the full song list

 

A Demanding Song Recital at the Ilkley Concert Club

 

The solo lieder recital is a challenging genre to bring off successfully. Many years ago the accompanist Graham Johnson created the Songmakers' Almanac, a format where a group of singers could share a programme and that worked well. Our young artists followed their example taking turns to perform solos and occasionally singing in duet.

 

Under the title 'A Celebration of Love' they devised a programme solely of German songs which in the first half featured Schubert settings of poems by Goethe, a tough assignment for any artist. Schubert's style has many facets but linking him to settings of just one poet limits the expressive range. A brave thing to do but not an entirely wise one as the second half of their programme demonstrated. This was altogether more successful with settings by Schumann and Brahms of a number of poets giving more opportunity for varied interpretations.

 

Excellent translations of the poems were provided in the programme booklet, less necessary in the lighter songs where both artists acted out the story very effectively, particularly in their duet version of Brahms' Vergebliches Ständchen (serenade in vain); but essential in the more serious songs. Following the texts highlighted a lack of verbal clarity. The classical singing style is very concerned with 'line', with maintaining an even flow of beautiful sound, but it can lead to consonants being thrown away. This lack was more evident in Malin's contribution which sometimes forfeited character as a result.

 

Both singers spoke engagingly to the audience about their programme. Soprano Malin began the concert with Schubert's Suleika which showed her beauty of tone, pitch perfect and well controlled vibrato. Joshua's lovely tenor voice was memorable in Brahms' Wir Wandelten They were accompanied by Simon Lepper who was superb throughout, always attentive to the needs of his partners whilst at the same time making his contribution tell effectively. An evening that got better as it went on, and was rewarded with warm final applause that brought a welcome encore.

 

Geoffrey Kinder

 

The following recordings were recommended in the concert programme

 

It has proved impossible to recommend CDs which cover all the songs featured tonight without recourse to the various large boxes of "complete" items, and this particularly applies to the duets. In the circumstances, I am suggesting discs which include at least a few of the songs.

 

Schubert, Goethe Settings

A very fine mid-price CD from DGG 457 747-2 has Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone) and Jorg Demus (piano) performing a selection of Goethe Lieder. A budget alternative, superbly sung by Janet Baker, with Gerald Moore and Geoffrey Parsons, has a 2 disc selection of Schubert Songs, including several from Goethe poems. This is on the Warner label (ex EMI) 5862512. Another budget disc, one of three featuring Goethe Schubert settings , has Johannes Kalpers (tenor) with Burkhard Kehring (piano) on Naxos 8.554667.

 

Brahms

A budget 2 CD set – DGG E4594692, features Jessye Norman (soprano) with Daniel Barenboim (piano), and includes some of the songs featured tonight. This is a beautifully performed recital, well recorded.

 

Schumann

As I mentioned earlier, recordings of the duets featured in the programme are hard to find. Fortunately, in the case of the Schumann, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone) and his wife Julia Varady (soprano), accompanied by Cord Garben, perform three of tonight's duets. The German radio recording is very good, and other songs by Schumann, Beethoven and Mahler complete the disc, which is full price on Audite 95.636.

Raymond Waud.

 

Club Notes for this concert

 

A MEMORY OF ARTHUR BUTTERWORTH MBE 1923-2014

For David Pyett's Celebration concert we decided to ask Arthur, a friend for many years, to compose a new piece. After a phone call Geoffrey Kinder & I (David Wharmby) met him to discuss it. We had not known him before that, but after dealing with the business in hand, we listened spellbound as he reeled off wonderful anecdotes from his long life. He was amusing & charming, erudite & thoughtful. Those of you who have heard him speak will know the depth of his knowledge, the fascinating thoughts on a wide range of subjects & the precise, faultless delivery. I still remember the twinkle in his eye when we asked how long it would take to write 'Tarka'. Pointing to a large pile of manuscript on his desk he said "A lot of it is already completed". Both Geoffrey & I were left thinking what a privilege it was to meet such a great man. Later in 2013 he organised an informal rehearsal of Elgar's 1st Symphony & thought it went so well that he decided to conduct it as a concert. I went to listen & it was a fine performance. 'Does this man never stop?' was my thought. Some of his writing is on the web—just search for 'Arthur Butterworth writes'.

 

HEATH QUARTET

Most quartets sit with first violin & cello next to the audience. The Heath is the only one I have heard with the two violins there: it's not new—there's photo of the Joachim Quartet ca. 1900 seated that way. These variants may seem trivial, but for the players they can make a big difference both to the sound that they hear & to the visual clues that they get from each other. Oliver Heath told us that they swapped to the new seating only 4 months ago & liked the stereo effect of the violins. Also they appreciated the violins each having their own separate space. As a listener I thought it made a difference too. Knowing the quartets well, I was struck by the clarity with which I heard the second violin parts in each one they played—these are often important & interesting. They do get lost in some performances. For lovers of the inside harmonies their playing was a real treat.

 

LEEDS LIEDER

If you enjoy song and fine singers check the Leeds Lieder website. Founded in 2004 to encourage the enjoyment of vocal performance, LL+ has held five festivals since then. Described by The Times as the "... most exuberant and far-reaching festivals of art-song in the UK", the next will be held in April 2016 with Roderick Williams, one of our favourites, as artistic director.

Between Festivals LL+ holds a lively programme of concerts and talks—an opportunity to get to know more of the art song repertoire.