S&H Recital Review

Schubert Lieder. Christine Schafer (soprano) with Graham Johnson (piano). Wigmore Hall, 27 November 2000 (PGW)

This was an immaculate Schubert song recital, which makes it less than easy to write about. The first half was mainly of lesser-known songs to Kosegarten, von Salis-Seewis, Schreiber, Klopstock, von Baumberg, Korner and Mayrhofer, performed without a break by request, as too was a second half of Goethe, Sir Walter Scott & Shakespeare, all sung in German.

In contrast with the lavish book(let)s provided with the now complete The Hyperion Schubert Edition, in which there may be five or six pages of explanatory text for a single song, here we had nothing except words and translations; a little about some of these poets would have been welcome, maybe best in Graham Johnson's own voice?

Schafer was a little cool in the first half, but relaxed after the interval, depicting the plight of Mignon with suitable pathos, and warming to Ellen's Songs, one of them the famous Ave Maria. The Shakespeare settings were Who is Sylvia and Hark! Hark! The lark, object lessons in how to retrieve the most hackneyed music with purity of tone and attention to detail. Graham Johnson was the perfect partner as usual, finding felicities in the accompaniments which elude lesser pianists; he kept things on the move, often following one song with another immediately, perhaps hoping to curb November coughing from the audience, which became unusually disturbing.

Reviewing Christine Schafer's contribution to Hyperion's Vol. 27 CDJ33027 , I wrote:

"- - no present day voice can meet with such ease the ecstatic, high soprano requirement in Der Fluss for 'a highly-placed voice with an ability to spin a line - - piano and pianissimo - - with a blend of formidable bel canto technique and Lieder-singing sensibility'. than Schafer, whom I have admired recently in Straussian operatic coloratura [S&H, March 2000] and in a solo CD of French chansons [DG 459 682-2 *****]

This impression was fully confirmed in her recital, during which I spotted but one note for which she might have been glad of an opportunity for a take 2, had it been a CD recording session.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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