Review: Leeds Lieder Festival, A Spiritual Solestice, Leeds Town Hall – streaming till Sunday, July 18
GUSTAV Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder shaped the centrepiece of Alice Coote’s and Christian Blackshaw’s thoughtfully curated programme of English, German and Russian songs.
The 5 settings to texts by Friedrich Rückert had been composed in 1901-02 for mezzo soprano and orchestra, or piano. Coote and Blackshaw started with the blissful Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft – I Breathed a Gentle Fragrance.
Then got here the urgency of Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder – Do not pry into my songs. Mahler didn’t like anybody else to see his compositions earlier than they had been completed.
Liebst du um schönheit – If you like for magnificence’s sake – was a captivating present from Mahler to his younger bride Alma Schindler. This is the one one of many 5 not orchestrated by Mahler.
The duo continued with the awful however in the end triumphal Um Mitternacht – At Midnight. Blackshaw’s accompaniment at this level sounded restrained the place virtuosity might need been anticipated.
Singer and pianist ended with the deeply touching Ich bin der welt abhanden gekommen – I’m misplaced to the world. Coote’s spectrum of vocal colouring from wealthy mezzo to lyric-dramatic soprano is arguably unmatched, though for my style, much less suited to the rapturous love track.
Saturday night’s entertaining recital requested us to think about what if. What if Fiordiligi and Dorabella had been Lieder singers? Graham Johnson’s ingenious programme removes the sisters in love, along with the scheming Don Alfonso, from Mozart’s opera Cosi fan tutte. Johnson transports them, and us, to a world inhabited by Hugo Wolf, Kurt Weill, Irving Berlin and lots of extra. Soprano Soraya Mafi, mezzo soprano Ema Niklovska and the bass William Thomas eloquently interpreted in track such human traits as fidelity, capitulation, abandon and reconcilliation. Johnson’s dry narrations from the keyboard set the scene to perfection.
by Geoffrey Mogridge