Seen and Heard Recital
Barbara Bonney and Angelika
Kirschlager Recital: Mendelssohn,
Schumann, Saint-Saëns, Chausson, Massenet, Fauré, Rossini,
Dvorák; Malcolm Martineau (piano), Barbican Hall, Friday,
January 28th, 2005 (CC)
The announcement that Bonney and Kirschlager were both recovering
from colds did not bode well. But we the audience need not have
worried, for the recovery was evidently well under way and the ladies
sparkled and delighted their way through this delicious programme.
The Mendelssohn offering was the Op. 63 set of six duets, an opus
possessed of almost preternatural levels of charm. Framed by light
and playful songs (the last, ‘Maiglöckchen und die Blümelein’,
a straight first cousin of Midsummer Night’s Dream), the group
revealed that, even when the duet writing is predominantly parallel
intervals, there are still two distinct personalities at work here.
Mendelssohnian regret informs the second Lied (‘Anschiedslied
der Zugvögel’). The fourth, ‘Herbstlied’,
gave Martineau a chance to shine (he is simply a superb accompanist:
clean of pedal, modest yet still characterful).
Three duets from Schumann’s Spanisches Liederspiel, Op. 74
offered the logical continuation. The singers now seemed both to
be really enjoying the linguistic niceties of the German language
(how they relished the ‘sch’ at the end of ‘Rosenbusch’,
for example). The first song, Schumann in jaunty mood, made the
link in mood with the Mendelssohn. Even in more languorous moments
(the second song, ‘Liebesgram’), there was still an
ongoing simplicity but there was something truly remarkable. At
various times Schumann asks the singers to sing exactly the same
note. How rare - they did. Exactly the same, not an approximation
covered in wobble. A special mention for Martineau’s ever-so-cheeky
contributions to the final ‘Botschaft’ is in order.
A handful of French duets rounded off the first half: the ultra-French
Pastorale of Saint-Saëns (including a little dance - a passepied?
- by Bonney and Kirschlager during the piano’s linking passages
was another moment of delight). Chausson’s Nuit introduced
a darker side that nevertheless held moments of tenderness (and
superb floated notes from Bonney), yet it was the Massenet (‘Oh,
ne finis jamais’) that provided the highlight of this first
half (if not of the recital as a whole). The repetitions of the
word ‘Jamais’ at the end of the first stanza were simply
gorgeous. Two songs by Fauré (‘Puisqu’ici-bas
tout âme’ and ‘Tarantelle’) closed the first
The high jinks continued in the second half with three duets from
Rossini’s Soirées musicales. Here for the first time
Bonney’s vibrato came across as needlessly tremulous (Kirschlager
having no such problem, being much more focussed). In fact, it was
Kirschlager’s lower register in the third song, ‘La
regata veneziana’ that stuck out as a thing of wonder. Dvorák’s
Op. 32 Moravian Duets (the text is in German) is a varied set of
songs. What impresses so much about the Bonney/Kirschlager partnership
so much is that whatever their playing to the audience at moments
of fun, their dedication to and love for the music they present
shines through every note. The highlight? Perhaps the penultimate,
‘Der Trost’ with its gorgeously intertwining vocal lines.
A superb concert.