Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Akiko Nakajima – Soprano / Niels Muus - piano

Wigmore Hall – 13 February 2006


Alessandro Paris otti - Se tu m'ami

Giulio Caccini - Amarilli mia bella

Gioachino Rossini - La pastorella

Alfredo Catalani - Romanza; Sognai; L'odalisque; Chanson grönlandaise

Carl Nielsen - Italiensk hyrdearie

André Messager - Si j'avais vos aîles

Kosaku Yamada - Akatombo

Yasunao Nakata - Sakura yokocho

Richard Strauss - Schlechtes Wetter Op. 69 No. 5; Breit über mein Haupt dein schwarzes Haar Op. 19 No. 2; Ständchen Op. 17 No. 2

Hugo Wolf - Heiss mich nicht redden; Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt ; So laßt mich scheinen; Kennst du das Land

Schubert – La Pastorella (Encore)


An evening of cultural divergence:- a Japanese soprano and her Danish pianist husband, both living in Vienna and absorbed into the Viennese musical scene, performing at the Wigmore Hall, the quintessential HQ of London 's concert ethos. Their audience was swelled by the enthusiastic presence of members of the Japanese community, many of them young, perhaps a little overwhelmed by the occasion and uncertain whether to applaud enthusiastically at the end of each song, or to wait impassively for the end of the set.


Equally singer and pianist were hesitant whether to break off and acknowledge the plaudit or to stare it out and maintain within the emotional character. Akiko Nakajima seemed also to be affected by a head cold (or perhaps the after effects of her flight from Tokyo where she had been singing Despina only two nights earlier), and she took a while to establish her confidence and the natural flow of her performance.


The evening was made special by a programme of extraordinary interest and amazing breadth of style. The singer‘s repertoire including the breathtaking coloratura of Rossini's La pastorella and Messager's Si j'vais vos ailes (undoubtedly what she does best) with the more disciplined long lines of Wolf's Mignon Lieder , and the pure schmalz of her Viennese second encore.


She opened her programme with pieces from the Italian baroque tradition, choosing the little known Paris otti and Caccini for her examples. Continuing with Italian school of a later period, the next items were UK premieres of a group of songs by Catalani – although it transpired that Chanson gronlandaise was instantly recognisable and was the composers first use of the tune which has to become Ebben, n'andro lontano the hit number of his opera La Wally. Another two rarities followed, Carl Nielsen and Andre Messager giving their own twist to the Italian style.


After the interval attention switched to Japan , where art song developed significantly during the 20 th century, and to two appealing lovesongs, the first beautifully sung unaccompanied.


Finally, came works by Richard Strauss and Wolf of much greater familiarity to the Hall's regulars, but approached a little tentatively on this occasion.


Niels Muus is a musicologist of some standing who compiled the programme and had researched the Catalani songs, and he devoted a few minutes to introducing them to the audience.


The concert marked the launch of Akiko Nakajima's new CD Female Portraits made with Slovak SO and including world premiere performances of arias from Catalani's La Falce , and Nicolai's Die Heimkehr des Vebannten. Copies of this and her earlier album La Pastorella were on sale and she had a good crowd queuing for these to be autographed. (Both CDs are on the Preiser label – ref PR 90691 and 90647 respectively.)


Serena Fenwick



See also Hilary Finch in The Times


© Peter Grahame Woolf