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Clara Mouriz & Joseph Middleton

Haydn : Arianna a Naxos, Cantata Hob.xxvib:2
Grieg : Sechs Lieder Op.48
Rossini : Canzonetta Spagnuola; Addio di Rossini
Rachmaninov : Songs Op.8
Montsalvatge : Cinco canciones negras

Wigmore Hall, 5 July 2007

Having reviewed these artists in a largely identical recital around a year ago, I had a fair idea of what to expect. Committed singing and nuance of line from both performers in Haydn, a near ideal sense of scale brought to Rossini, apt darkness of vocal colour in Rachmaninov and idiomatic interpretations of Montsalvatge.

If anything the intervening period between these two recitals has seen Clara Mouriz deepen her approach to recital performance. Once, highly mobile gestures were repeatedly employed by Mouriz to bring out aspects of the texts. This has been replaced by the more pointed subtlety of reliance upon her voice to express the inner nuances of the words themselves. Although both approaches indicate a certain stage presence, there is little doubt that greater artistic authority is maintained in the long run through careful vocal use to amplify the composers' wishes. This takes self knowledge and confidence in ones abilities, but these are both qualities Clara Mouriz shows in abundance. The contribution of unassuming and beautifully phrased musicianship that Joseph Middleton brought to the accompanists role must impart confidence to a singer in no small measure also.


In some respects it was the set of six Grieg songs that proved the highlight of the recital. Despite serious advocacy from artists such as Soile Isokoski and Barbara Bonney in recent years, Grieg's songs remain somewhat neglected in the wider public consciousness.


Mouriz and Middleton proved to be unafraid of their illustrious elders and provided a coherent reading of the songs that was imbued with vitality. Both performers brought out the shifting moods of individual songs to clear effect, without neglecting to demonstrate Grieg's clear debt to the heady atmosphere of Austro-German Romanticism. Replete with images of nature, dreams, love and longing, the link between Bayreuth and Norway appeared remarkably immediate.


Rather unusually for a Spanish singer, Mouriz's German diction is clear and adds to the enjoyment of her art. Her ability to float lines with ease at the top of the vocal range, and treat them not merely as showy extensions, but as fully integrated with the rest of her robust and characterful voice indicates potential areas of repertoire which might yet be profitably explored. More Grieg, certainly, but Loewe, Richard Strauss or certain Pfitzner songs could be worth investigating. Exciting times are ahead for this talented musical partnership.


Evan Dickerson