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Lisa Milne - soprano / Malcolm Martineau piano

Wigmore Hall 6 May 2006

 

Purcell/Britten: Mad Bess

Strauss: Drei Lieder der Ophelia Op 67

Schumann: Schneeglockchen Op 79 No 26; Marienwurmchen Op 79 No 13; Des Sennen Abschied Op 79 No 22; Meine Rose Op 90 No 2; Auftrage Op 77 No 5

Caplet: Le corbeau et le renard, La cigale et la fourmi and Le loup et l'agneau from 3 Fables of Jean de La Fontaine

Quilter:- Weep you no more Op 12 No 1; My Life's Delight OP 12 No 2; Music when soft voices die Op 25 No 5; Autumn Evening Op 14 No 1; Fair House of Joy Op 12 No 7

Walton: 3 Sitwell Songs

Encores: Hahn A Chloris; Auld Lang Syne (unaccompanied)

 

A scheduled Mozart evening of operatic arias, songs and duets had to be radically rethought when Sarah Connolly withdraw earlier in the week due to ill health. Lisa Milne and Malcolm Martineau tcame up with an alternative programme which showed no signs whatsoever of being hastily put together.

 

It also played to Lisa Milne's strengths. She is a recitalist with the instincts of a cabaret artist, and I mean that as the highest of accolades. She establishes an immediate rapport with her audience, has the clearest of diction, can characterise a piece with skill and wit (and is not afraid to interpose a breathy whisper), but equally knows when to leave well alone and deliver a song with direct simplicity and distinctive silky tone.

 

There was also an illusory thread that ran through the programme insanity and fantasy - starting in the half-crazed world of Mad Bess , and continuing with Strauss' Ophelia Lieder perhaps the most famous of all mad songs. Milne delivered them with sincerity and beautifully judged quixotic mood changes, emphasised by the piano. Both Robert Schumann and Roger Quilter were prey to depression and mental instability, but their response to poetry was heartfelt whether melancholy, radiantly joyous, or finding simple pleasure in a snowdrop and it was these unadorned sentiments that were presented by Milne and Martineau.

 

The evening was not without humour. Schumann's version of the Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home nursery rhyme lifted the lid on the fantasy world which was to spring into vivid life with three of Caplet's fine La Fontaine fables, where Milne introduced us to a most unctuous fox, folded her arms like the wings of a disgruntled crow, crooned as a grasshopper, disapproved as an ant, and argued as wolf and lamb. Walton's setting of the Sitwell songs took us even further into the realms of nonsense, those wonderful gossipy Spanish ladies, muttering like castanets behind their fans and trellises, and an American accented ragtime Old Sir Falk.

 

Altogether a triumph, a splendid performance from both singer and pianist, and an evening the audience will long remember.

 

© Serena Fenwick

 

Photo Credit: Phiz