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S & H Concert Review

Hugo Wolf, Lieder to Poems by Eduard Mörike. Dorothea Röschmann, Stephan Loges, Malcolm Martineau. Wigmore Hall, 2nd February 2003 (ME)


This Sunday afternoon’s recital was the opening concert of Malcolm Martineau’s Wolf series, commemorating the centenary of the composer’s death and offering some superb programmes given by some of the world’s finest lieder singers, and including for good measure no fewer than four masterclasses by the singer who the present writer regards as the great master of the singing of this composer, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. This recital was to have included one of the singers most profoundly influenced by that master, Simon Keenlyside, but unforeseen circumstances having prevented his appearance we heard instead Stephan Loges, a past winner of the Wigmore Hall International Song Competition, who proved an equal partner to Dorothea Röschmann, the soprano first introduced to Wigmore audiences by Matthias Goerne, who will give two recitals later in the festival.

Any soprano beginning a group with ‘Im Frühling’ and ending with ‘Er ist’s’ can hardly avoid being compared to Schwarzkopf and Auger, and indeed Röschmann’s tone does, at times, remind one of her great predecessors, although as yet she lacks the former’s needle-sharp precision and the latter’s warmth in the timbre. It took her a little time to find the right level of intensity, but by the end of ‘Frage und Antwort’ with its perfectly judged slight pressure on ‘süssen’, it was clear that this is a very individual voice. Martineau’s playing of this song’s exquisite nachspiel was a model of sensitivity. The finest performance in this group was of ‘Verborgenheit’, the first of Wolf’s songs to gain popularity and still one of the most loved, although its deceptive simplicity can lead to self-indulgence – this was not the case here since both singer and pianist gave a beautifully controlled evocation of the poet’s desire to be free of ‘Seine Wonne, seine Pein!’ The final song in the group, ‘Er ist’s’ was less successful, with too many aspirates blurring the sense of delight in Spring, but here again Martineau’s accompaniment was perfection.

Stephan Loges is an extremely promising young singer with an already impressive C.V. His stage presence is graceful and he has plenty of confidence in addition to a beautifully cultivated baritone, perhaps slightly lacking in colour and a little uncertain in the lower registers. His best performance in the first half was of ‘Fussreise’, another of Wolf’s most popular lieder and of which the composer wrote to his friend Edmund Lang, "When you have heard this song, you will have but one more wish: to die." Martineau caught exactly the right walking rhythm in the piano part, and Loges, without at all disturbing the shape of the music, imparted an ideal freedom to the vocal line, especially in the final ‘Morgenreise’.

This sense of freedom was carried on in ‘Auf einer Wanderung’, most beautifully sung although one could have wished for a more heady sense of rapture at ‘O Muse’. Mr Loges does not lack a sense of humour as he proved in ‘Abschied’, where the conclusion was appropriately mischievous, with Martineau gleefully counterpointing the critic’s comeuppance. The recital ended with Röschmann’s group of ‘mädchenhaft’ songs which to me are the least attractive part of the Wolf repertoire: perhaps the best of them is ‘Das verlassene Mägdlein’ in which Martineau’s playing of the numb A minor melody and the soprano’s intensity at ‘O ging er wieder!’ combined to produce one of the high points of the afternoon. A very enthusiastic audience was rewarded with two encores, with Loges’ performance of ‘Und willst du deinem Liebsten sterben sehen’ forming a fitting envoi.


Melanie Eskenazi

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