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Two Faces of Wigmore Hall
Thomas Hampson & Wolfram Rieger; Lendvai String Trio & Daniel Becker

Schumann Kerner Lieder Op. 35 & original version of Dichterliebe

Beethoven & Reger String Trios
Hesketh Poetic Conceits & Beethoven Op. 109

Wigmore Hall, London 15 & 17 December 2007

Two concerts and two faces of Wigmore Hall. In the days before William Lyne's incumbency, Wigmore Hall used to be the obligatory venue for debut concerts, often given to a sparse assembly of listeners
(q.v. www.musicalpointers.co.uk/WilliamLyneBirthdayConcert).

Latterly it became a regular stop-over for international star singers, and Thomas Hampson's return was typical; sold out long before, a packed house with queues for returns, a standing ovation to finish. A seemingly austere programme, all Schumann, with a long first half of the lesser known Kerner Lieder Op. 35, given uninterrupted by applause; afterwards the original (extended) version of what became Dichterliebe, thoroughly researched by Hampson and colleagues, and doubtless for release on CD soon.

It was as impressive a demonstration of the art of Lieder singing as you are likely to encounter for many a month, with Hampson well supported by his regular partner and his singing under complete vocal control and all done without any distracting gesture. There were four additional songs dropped from the published Dichterliebe and the programme included the text of a lengthy Prologue which placed Heine's poems in a knight's dream world.

A vintage Saturday night at the Wigmore. For full song-by-song accounts see John Woods in MusicalCriticism, and The Guardian's Andrew Clements, with whom I have to agree that Hampson and Rieger began rather loudly for Wigmore Hall. But one soon became accustomed to it, and his ffs were matched by exquisite pps, as in his attenuated tone to depict the young girl who aspires to become a nun in Stirb, Lieb' und Freud'!

The CD (of the same programme??) is one to look forward to. Meanwhile, do explore Hampson's marvellous assumption of Busoni's Doktor Faust on DVD.

Wigmore Hall's other face was shown two evenings later in the Park Lane Group's Monday Platform series, which failed to distract more than a handful of chamber music enthusiasts from their Christmas shopping...

By no means debutants, the Lendvai String Trio & Daniel Becker gained the attendance of Musical Pointers because of memories of previous notable appearances in London. We were keen to hear the Lendvais again after their impressive concert in PLG's annual January series devoted to Young Artists in contemporary music (the next January 7-11 2008, in the South Bank Centre's Purcell Room).

For the Monday platform series, musicians are not restricted to contemporary music; the Lendvais paid tribute to Beethoven on his birthday with the delightful Serenade Op 8, and returned to the platform with Reger's String Trio Op. 77b (1904). Both these were welcome revivals of music rarely programmed. The Reger had a somewhat improvisatory feel to it; attractive sections which tended to stop-start as if unsure of its destinations. There are however three recordings of the Reger currently available - I remembered it fondly from plum label 78s by the Strub Quartet half a century ago, still to be found in historic reissues...

Daniel Becker had made his mark in a 2006 "Fresh" recital with a wide ranging programme that included the premiere of Hesketh's Poetic Conceits. I found myself less in sympathy with its musical idiom on second hearing; the sort of work where intriguing programme notes are not matched by the actual music... Becker too gave us Beethoven, a thoughtful, well conceived performance in which overall shaping took precedence over clarity of detail; a performance for listeners who knew their Op 109 well.

Peter Grahame Woolf