Strauss & Mahler Lieder
Strauss Traum durch die Dämmerung; Schlagende Herzen; Nachtgang; Du meines Herzens Krönelein; Ach Lieb, ich muss nun scheiden; Mein Herz ist stumm, mein Herz ist kalt
Berlioz Les nuits d’été
Anne Schwanewilms (soprano) &
Roger Vignoles (piano) Wigmore Hall 5 December 2007 & with LSO/Sir Colin Davis at The Barbican 12 December 2007
Schwanewilms is at present best known to audiences in the UK for her operatic roles, notably in Elektra and Ariadne, but it is clear that she is equally at home on the concert platform, where she has a directness of approach which immediately connects with her audience.
Her debut CD of Strauss Lieder, on which she is also accompanied by Roger Vignoles, was warmly welcomed by Musical Pointers earlier this year, and not surprisingly a substantial number of the same songs had been chosen for this recital. Her recording comes close to perfection, but there is nothing to beat the immediacy of a live performance, and this one was a real treat.
Songs where the voice must lead off without the benefit of a piano introduction always carry a measure of risk, but on this occasion the risks were more than vindicated. The sheer beauty of her voice, floated gently through Strauss’s glorious melodies, was a rare delight, and the beauty was underpinned by precision and good clear diction. Some interpreters would have given a more emotionally charged reading, but then the songs can become overblown and cloying. Restraint is, to my ears, more effective and the skill with which Schwanewilms controlled and coloured her voice to match the scale of the Wigmore Hall impressed me greatly.
Some less familiar songs from Mahler’s Das Knaben Wunderhorn added variety to the programme, but the highlight of the evening was Strauss’s Three Ophelia Lieder, finishing with the poignant “They carried him naked on his bier”, a miniature masterpiece of presentation.
Encores of course followed and with rare candour Schwanewilms declared that she would end with the cradle-song Träume, träume, du mein süßes Leben although it shouldn’t be sung at the end of a big recital because of the physical demands of the long arching phrases. Yes, there was perceptively a breath or two, but artistry carried her through with honours and Roger Vignoles added distinction to the whole evening. We must hope that they will be together for other releases in the Hyperion Strauss Lieder series now under way.
Just one week later Anne Schwanewilms was back on a London platform, this time at the Barbican Hall in an all-Berlioz concert with the LSO under Sir Colin Davis. As the man in the seat behind me remarked at the interval, in frosty December there is nothing very summery about Les nuits d’été, but there was warmth in Schwanewilms' voice both in the lilting and carefree opening Villanelle, which sets the scene for the piece, and in her pleas for her beloved to return in Absence. The chill accompanied the spectre of the rose and the forme angelique that floats through the shadows of the graveyard.