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Dietrich Henschel – baritone / Fritz Schwinghammer – piano
Wigmore Hall 3 October 2006

Brahms – Neun Lieder und Gesange; Vier ernste Gesange; Versunken; Uber die Heide; Feideinsamkeit; Standchen
Webern – Funf Lieder aus ‘Der siebente Ring'; Funf Lieder nach Gedichte von Stefan George
Gund – Der einsame Pfeifer; Abendstandchen; Nachts; Heimkehr

We live in an age of “image statement” and Dietrich Henschel certainly made an impact coming onto the platform in a long jacketed 3-piece suit with the erect bearing of a nineteenth century man of fashion. His singing made an even greater impact. After standing completely still for a few moments to muster his resources, he embarked on a totally committed performance.

Every note he sings has been carefully planned. He displays an unusual refinement of tone and has a gift for extended pianissimo passages.

Fritz Schwinghammer contributed in full measure, coaxing a wide range of dynamics and colour from the piano.

The first Brahms group almost amounts to a song cycle and they were given expansive treatment. The composer was reportedly moved to tears at the premiere of his Four Serious Songs, but they are often performed in a blustery and heroic manner. Tonight they were given with the gentlest and most profound sense of grief and loss – silencing the audience at the conclusion.

Webern's Stefan George lieder require enormous practice and huge flexibility to negotiate their tortuous twists and turns, and the virtuosity of both artists was demonstrated to stunning effect.

Finally there were a group of songs by Robert Gund a virtually unknown Viennese composer (not rating an entry in Groves Dictionary of Music ). The programme tells us he produced hundreds of Lieder, of which only 70 per published. Rather spare of character, they seemed to provide a better showpiece for the pianist than singer. They were deserving of a hearing, but their value seems to lie more in rarity than anything else and I would judge them unlikely to find a permanent place in UK concert repertoire.

Overall, certainly one the finest recitals I have heard at the Wigmore Hall this year.

Serena Fenwick