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Schubert Birthday Concert at Wigmore Hall

Tuesday 31 January 2006


Juliane Banse - soprano / Wolfram Rieger – piano

Schubert – Suleika I & II; Sehnsucht; Erster Verlust; Rastlose Liebe

Liszt – 3 Lieder from “Lieder aus Schiller's Wilhelm Tell”

Schubert – Das Madchens Klage; Der Jungling am Bache; Huffnung; An Emma; Der Alpenjager; Sehnsucht; Abendstern; Atys; Memnon; Freiwilliges Versinken; Auflosung; Dithyrambe; Die Gotter Griechenlands; An die Nachtigall


After the marathon celebrations of Mozart's anniversary last week the Wigmore Hall audience was in quietly festive mood to commemorate Schubert's Birthday, and the spirit of anticipation increased when Juliane Banse stepped out onto the platform in a stunning satin evening dress in a delicate shade of lilac. Perhaps I am not the only one who subconsciously associates that colour with Schubert, courtesy of Sigmund Romberg, of course.


Less happily, it transpired that she was suffering from a head cold and she needed to retrieve a handkerchief neatly hidden in the piano from time to time. So, she made a slightly tense start, and was sensibly pacing herself carefully in due regard to the length of the evening. It was possible to detect a little tightening in the upper register, but otherwise she sang with charm and feeling, making immediate communication with her audience. She has a remarkable purity of tone beautifully demonstrated in the long legato passages, of for example, Erster Verlust.


The programme had been chosen with care and skill, portraying a contrasting range of emotions, and the three most important poets in Schubert's oeuvre were well represented. Indeed, both Goethe and Schiller appeared in two guises: Goethe through Marianne von Willemer's two Suleika poems written at the time of their passionate affair and included in his anthology West-ostlicher Divan , and Schiller through Liszt's settings of poems from William Tell.


These three pieces by Liszt are really miniature tone poems depicting the lakeside, meadowland and the dangerous alpine ice-fields, and set a particularly testing challenge for the pianist – one that Wolfram Rieger passed with flying colours.


Juliane Banse appeared more relaxed in the second half of the evening, as her voice really opened up. Der Alpenjager was a small tour de force and her starlight in Abendstern was really glittering. Both Memnon and Dithyrambe were persuasively sung, the former with a long drawn out introduction and the latter with a nice sense of rhythm. The last song of the printed programme, the beautiful and evocative Die Gotter Griechenlands ends with the line “only the shadow has remained”, and the audience sat in appreciative silence for a full minute before applause broke the spell.


© Serena Fenwick


See recommended recital with Andras Schiff (Mozart & Debussy) PGW

Photo credit Wild & Team (Banse) & Klaus Schuh (Rieger)