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Seen and Heard Recital Review

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 half.


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.


Colin Clarke

 

 



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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)