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Brahms Unwrapped

Kings Place, London, 19 September 2012

"Are you sitting comfortably?" - then Julia Somerville began, telling us the adventurous medieval lovestory of the beautiful Magelone and Count Peter of Provence.

Not knowing this early Brahms Liederkreis, I became sufficiently engaged to be hoping for a happy ending...

The Kings Place presentation was ideal, with a programme including the substance of the narrative in italics, and one of the indispensable translations by Emily Ezust in good large print. And - what a relief - the lights in Hall One were left on so that we could read them!

A marvellous evening, and a justification for the inclusivity of Kings Place's major Brahms Unwrapped season.

Roderick Williams (singing without a score) was perfectly partnered by Roger Vignoles. The audience was modest, so the three of them should go straight to a studio to put down a recording o f their fine account of these 15 Romances which ought to be in the standard repertoire.

Hilary Finch likes Pregardien's version, but Alan Blyth (below) has a different preference.

Peter Grahame Woolf

- - you may find Vanessa Redgrave's confiding manner a shade affected on repeated hearing. Of course, technology would allow you to programme her out and simply listen to Brahms - - - These songs have never struck me as among Brahms's most attractive or spontaneous - - the composer tends to be in his more ponderous vein. Pregardien and Staier make out a good case for the Romanzen in their energetic and alert phrasing and colouring of the music. But a baritone is actually preferable - - there is a version available, by — you guessed it — Fischer-Dieskau in the memorable company of Sviatoslav Richter, in a class of their own, drawing out all the music's chivalric bravura, and obviating the need for any narration. Alan Blyth [Gramophone]