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Schubert Schwanengesang

Robert Holl (bass-baritone) & Roger Vignoles (piano)
Wigmore Hall 24 October 2006

Eight Lieder on texts by Ludwig Rellstab Liebesbotschaft; Kriegers Ahnung; Fruhlings-sehnsucht; Standchen; Abschied; Herbst;
Aufenthalt; In der Feme.

Der Winterabend; Die Taubenpost.

Six Lieder on texts by Heinrich Heine Das Fischermadchen; Am Meer; Die Stadt; Der Doppelganger; Ihr Bild; Der Atlas

Schwanengesang is not a song cycle, as Hilary Finch explained in her pre-concert exposition (scripted and delivered like a good old-time Third Programme talk before today's more usual 'interview' format), nor are they a case of a previously mute musician singing as he died, as suggested by the publisher's titling of this collection.

Robert Holl - who is heard in recital too infrequently - felt free to re-order his programme to his own taste. From the first note he established command and authority, characterising his view of each song with precision.

Holl adjusted his operatic persona to the Wigmore Hall, not afraid to give full power to the biggest climaxes, but his norm was not wearisomely loud as in one recent opera diva's recital there. Many times he scaled down a high phrase to a telling mezza-voce, rather as does a clavichordist who cannot draw on the ringing tones of a Steinway's treble register.

But although it was the richness of his baritone and bass timbres that delighted, making a welcome change from supranos and tenors reaching for the sky, he showed us that he still has power in reserve for special moments, ending with a fearsome account of Der Atlas. And he was matched all the way by Roger Vignoles (who had been having a busy week at Wigmore Hall) bringing out delicacies and magisterial power from the wide open piano; no need for short-stick compromises (which never work) here.

Peter Grahame Woolf