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Schubert, Mendelssohns F & F, Fauré, Debussy & Duparc

Franz Schubert: Ian Bostridge
An den Mond (To the moon) D259
Ganymed (Ganymede) D544
An Schwager Kronos (To Coachman Chronos)
Erster Verlust (First loss)
Der Musensohn (The son of the Muses)
An den Mond (To the moon) D296

Felix Mendelssohn: Sophie Daneman
Auf Flügeln des Gesanges (On wings of song)
Pagenlied (Page’s song)
Die Liebende schreibt (The beloved writes)
Nachtlied (Night song)
Schilflied (Reed song)
Neue Liebe (New love)

Fanny Mendelssohn: Ian Bostridge, Sophie Daneman
Suleika und Hatem

Franz Schubert: Ian Bostridge, Sophie Daneman
Licht und Liebe (Light and love) [this was an addition to the printed programme]
Mignon und der Harfner (Mignon and the harper)

Claude Debussy: Fêtes Galantes I - Sophie Daneman

En sourdine (Muted)
Fantoches (Marionettes)
Clair de lune (Moonlight)

Claude Debussy: Fêtes Galantes II – Ian Bostridge
Les ingénus (Ingenus)
Le faune (The faun)
Colloque sentimental (Lovers’ dialogue)

Gabriel Fauré:
Clair de lune (Moonlight) Ian Bostridge
Tristesse (Sadness) – Sophie Daneman
Les berceaux (The cradles) – Ian Bostridge
Lydia – Sophie Daneman
Prison – Ian Bostridge
Au bord de l’eau (At the water’s edge) – Sophie Daneman
Nell – Ian Bostridge
Notre amour – Sophie Daneman
Puisqu’ici-bas toute âme (Since on this Earth) – Sophie Daneman, Ian Bostridge

Henri Duparc:
La fuite (Escape) – Sophie Daneman, Ian Bostridge

Robert Schumann: – Sophie Daneman, Ian Bostridge
Er und Sie

Ian Bostridge, Sophie Daneman and Julius Drake

Middle Temple Hall, London 3 March 2010

This was a memorable evening for lovers of song, with two great singers in fine voice, sharing the platform, staying to listen to each other and joining in duets. Middle Temple Hall, opposite the Law Courts, is one of London's architectural glories, and with fine acoustics.

The selection of items was brilliant, with Mendelssohn and his sister dominating the first half and Sophie Daneman shining with warmth and sincerity (despite apologies for a seasonal cold, which went unnoticed).

We particularly liked Ian Bostridge in the Fêtes Galantes, but I'd hoped, in the relatively informal atmosphere, that Sophie might have joined in to make Colloque sentimental a duet with the brief comments ("No", "It may have been so", etc) from her seat by the piano?

Two extra duets were given, the last one sung from a single copy of the music, and the whole very generous programme had the hallmarks of Julius Drake's organisation; he masterminds the whole series.

We were fortunate to have seats close to the stage at the bottom of the plan, from where the piano sounded splendid (have you noticed that for recitals, an extra microphone is often placed in that position?). The hall (which was packed) is long as shown; by putting the stage halfway along one side it is ensured that no-one is far from the music - why is that configuration not used far more often elsewhere?

Both singers gave conscious attention to the audience all around them, making the experience for everyone feel an intimate one. And the wines were carefully chosen too...

Peter Grahame Woolf

Iestyn Davies (countertenor), Julius Drake (piano)

Middle Temple Hall 26th Apr 2010

Iestyn Davies gave the first solo countertenor recital in the Temple Song series, a programme of English song planned to match the presumed tastes of London's legal establishment and warmly received by the capacity audience.

It centred on the Housman A Shropshire Lad settings by George Butterworth, who was killed at the Somme, songs which memorialise young men sent to their deaths in 1914-18. The youthful Davies did not eclipse meories of great baritones in these songs, nor did his rather dry voice match memories of the great Alfred Deller and James Bowman. We were promted by Richard Stokes to wonder whether he would interpret the final Never ask me whose as with 'a smile on his face, guilty or sad'? He just sang it straight.

A group of Purcell arrangements for piano accompaniment featured Tippett and Britten, making for the most interesting thread in the programme, leading to the former's Ariel songs (which were premiered with harpsichord by Grayston Burgess; my small son, Burgess' pupil, featured one of them to complete his LP of English song) and to Tit for Tat, a group of Britten's juvenilia.

Tippett's Purcell realisations are plain, Britten's far more characterful. Those teen-age songs, revised forty years on and published with "the experienced middle-aged composer's aid" were intriguing; if the revisions were trivial then the originals must have been remarkable - but who knows?

The second half, which found Davies in better voice, had songs by Quilter, Gurney and Vaughan Williams, of which Gurney's I will go with my father a-ploughing was particularly apt for a countertenor, plus a beautiful encore, Herbert Howells' King David (click on this link to hear it!). On reflection, Iestyn Davies might have been better heard in a shared recital, as were Bostridge and Daneman in March?


The next concert in the Julius Drake & Friends series at Middle Temple Hall is with Wolfgang Holzmair, 8 June 7.30 pm - part of a Schumann 200 mini festival with concerts also at Temple Church, June 7 - 10.

Robert Schumann's 200th birthday

Heine Songs:
Mein Wagen rollet langsam, Es leuchtet meine Liebe, Der arme Peter, Tragödie I and II, Die beiden Grenadiere, Was will die einsame Träne, Abends am Strand, Lehn deine Wang, Die Lotosblume, and Mit Myrten und Rosen


Wolfgang Holzmair & Julius Drake

Middle Temple Hall London, June 8 2010 (the very day on which Robert Schumann was born)

Twenty seven Heine settings made for a notable Schumann bicentenary celebration. Wolfgang Holzmair was in perfect voice, his technique assured so that he could give his whole attention to interpretative subtleties, investing every line of each song with full meaning.

Each half, given without breaks, was about half an hour. Had the first miscellaneous settings been collected with a catchy title by a publisher, many of them would have become as popular as Dichterliebe; only a few did I know (Schumann set 42 Heine poems, against Schubert's a mere half dozen).

There is a problem for baritones, as most of the unrequited love poems were written by the teenage poet who had been turned down by a schoolgirl. They also reflect his increasing isolation as a young man and rejection by an already rabidly anti-Semitic Germany of the time [Richard Stokes].HCS

Many of tonight's songs were included in Holzmair's 1998 recording with Imogen Cooper [Philips 462 610-2], reviewed in conjunction with a 2002 recital they gave together, at which we noted that he didn't eschew "gestures that would have scored minus points in a Lieder singing competition".

By now, those studied gestures had been developed in a compelling operatic manner which engaged us fully with the intense emotions depicted in most of the songs. Indeed, I came to feel that Holzmair had by now choreographed his performance to such an extent that he seemed almost unaware where and for whom he was singing. All other singers seen at Middle Temple Hall over the years "gave conscious attention to the audience all around them, making the experience for everyone feel an intimate one" [v.s.].

Holzmair faced straight forward, sometimes inclining to the right; never did he so much as glance towards the audience at the east end of the Hall, not even when taking his bow, or whilst walking off stage and back for his encore. (Photos were not allowed, so my plan above must suffice, together with a characteristic photo of Holzmair in left profile as we saw him.)

For us tonight Julius Drake was the star of the evening, and indeed of the Middle Temple series, imperturbable at the piano and playing with such insight and subtle pianism that we felt, having attended several presitigous song recitals in recent weeks, that he is the current king of lieder pianists. It was only fitting that Dichterliebe finishes with an extended epilogue for the piano.

Holzmair's next recording must surely be made for DVD?

Peter Grahame Woolf

"Mr. Holzmair has a lovely voice and ear and sells these songs, fervent syllable by fervent syllable." [New York Times]

Beethoven, Rosanna Panufnik & Schubert

Beethoven Mailied; Neue Liebe, neues Leben; Adelaide; An die ferne Geliebte

Panufnik - The Generation of Love (New Work for tenor horn and piano ***)

Beethoven Sonata for horn and piano op 17

Schubert Vor meine Wiege; Die Sterne; Des Fischers Liebesglück; Wilkommen und Abschied
Auf dem Strom
for tenor, horn and piano

Mark Padmore (tenor R), Richard Watkins (horn) and Julius Drake (piano)

Temple Song, Middle Temple Hall, London 18th Nov 2010

This was a moderately successful recital, though overlong?

Rosanna Panufnik's Shakespeare sonnets were dour and literal, somehow too respectful, in their measured word-setting.

The horn sonata and lieder lost something by being accompanied on The Temple's Steinway, fine an instrument though it be, but I guess Temple Song isn't quite ready for fortepianos yet? *