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Late Schumann and early Brahms

Schumann: 6 Lieder Op 107; Gedichte der Konigen Maria Stuart Op 135

Brahms: Liebestreu; In der Fremde; Lied; Parole; Anklänge; Juchhe! Murrays Ermordung; Nachtigallen schwingen lustig; Wie die Wolke nach der Sonne; Der Frühling; Volkslied; Die Trauernde; Liebe und Frühling I & II


Kate Royal – soprano

Christopher Glynn – piano


Wigmore Hall 7 May 2009

Indisposition had forced Graham Johnson to step down from this concert but the programme, with it’s elaborately interconnected threads, was obviously of his devising and the elucidating comments that he would no doubt have added left an undefined hollowness in the proceedings. 


Schumann’s Op 107 Lieder, more specifically a song entitled “Heartbreak” with references to the drowned Ophelia, really set the tone for the whole evening.  The group of Brahms lieder that followed picked up on the theme with it’s opening words “Oh drown your grief”, although Brahms’ natural ebullience was barely concealed.  His Anklange, with it’s girl spinning silken threads for her wedding dress, effectively echoed Schumann’s Die Spinnerin and there were other cross references to be discovered and enjoyed.  


Juchhe provided a rare moment of rejoicing to despatch the audience to the interval to fortify themselves for the sterner moments that were to follow in the second half.


The five poems of Mary Queen of Scots make surely one of the bleakest, and most beautiful, of all short song cycles.  Fear, loneliness and despair wrack the ill-fated queen as she bids farewell both to her beloved France and later to the world.  On this occasion Brahms’ setting of the Scottish folksong “The bonnie Earl o’Moray” was interpolated between the second and third songs, historically appropriate but, to mind at least, detrimental to the unity of the cycle. 


A pleasant grouping of Brahms love songs completed the scheduled programme, but failed to lift the mood.  However, the encore Early One Morning, with its direct simplicity and its insidious tune, proved the highlight of the evening. It sent us home with spirits uplifted and several people were still humming it gently on the platform of the Jubilee Line as they waited for their train. 


Kate Royal is a singer with formidable technique, near perfect diction and a voice of pure gold.  During the years that I have been watching her she has developed a more narrative style on the concert platform that helps her to communicate effectively with her audience.  Christopher Glynn has long been one of may favourite accompanists and it was a delight to hear him on this occasion.


Serena Fenwick


See also Kate Royal's 2006 Wigmore Hall recital [Editor]