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Mahler & Handel; Lieberson & Harbison

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson – mezzo soprano
Roger Vignoles - piano

Funf Ruckert Lieder: Ich atmet' einen linden Duft ; Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder; Liebst du um Schonheit; Um Mitternacht; Ich bin der welt abhanden gekommen
E vivo ancora ... Scherza infida (from Ariodante )
As with rosy steps (from Theodora )
from Five Rilke Songs: O ihr Zartlichen; Stiller Freund
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's spoken introduction to, and Triraksha's aria (from Ashoka's Dream )
Spiritual: Deep River
Brahms: Unbewegte laue Luft Op. 57 No. 8

WHLIVE0013 - 59 minutes Recorded live at Wigmore Hall, 30 November 1998


Lorraine Hunt Lieberson possessed one of the finest mezzo soprano voices of her generation, full and rich, and with the same qualities of power and depth that were the hallmarks of Kathleen Ferrier. Their careers have many parallels: both were professional instrumentalists (Hunt a violist) before turning to singing. Both found themselves suited to much the same repertoire, mixing Handel with the best of contemporary works and a sprinkling of traditional folksong, and sadly both their lives were cut short at the height of their singing power.


Hunt Lieberson was blessed with a highly refined gift of musicality which lifted her performances to an outstanding level. This concert, which was her Wigmore Hall debut, was just such a memorable occasion, with Roger Vignoles contributing in equal measure. Mahler's 5 Ruckert Songs are quite sublime; as near a perfect examples of lieder presentation as one could hope to hear.


Handel forms the heart of the recital, first a spirited aria from Ariodante and then “As with rosy steps” from Theodora which many will consider to be Hunt's signature piece. There are no tricks or gimmicks, just a simplicity, sincerity and what I can only describe as a luminous quality to her voice. Tears are never far away, but tempered by serenity and consolation. There is long moment of silence at the end before the applause breaks out, as rapturous as any I have heard from a Wigmore Hall audience.


She continues with two of the Rilke songs composed for her by her husband Peter Lieberson. The word “love” does not appear in either, but the sub-text is there, blending sensuous passion with tenderness.


She gives a short synopsis of the 3rd century Indian drama that forms the basis of Ashoka's Dream and Tiraksha's aria is captivatingly exotic, redolent of the savagery of those times.


Two encores are included on the CD and I couldn't help noticing that the final words are “heavenly satisfaction”, which is a perfect summation of this recital.


Serena Fenwick


Purchasers of the delectable WH Live disc may want to explore Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's discography further. A good introduction to her transatlantic repertoire is a CD of music by John Harbison [Bridge 9200], which has, undeservedly, not made it across the ocean.


Best is Lorraine's account of a fine cycle with chamber ensemble Mottetti di Montale, not to be missed. It is coupled with a fine piano sonata that should have become popular by now, a concerto for oboe, clarinet and strings (there aren't many of those) and another song-cycle with soprano Georgina Resick.

Recommended [Editor]