thu 22/02/2024

Annette Dasch, Julius Drake, Middle Temple Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Annette Dasch, Julius Drake, Middle Temple Hall

Annette Dasch, Julius Drake, Middle Temple Hall

A triumphant performance of Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder

Annette Dasch Manfred Baumann

This was the first of the ten concerts in the Temple Music Society's autumn/winter season. The Society uses two venues right in the heart of London, Temple Church and, as last night, Middle Temple Hall, most famous as the site of the first performance of Twelfth Night in 1602.

Traditions run deep in this place. The audience sit on comfortably upholstered – and occasionally creaky – wooden seats under the watchful gaze of no fewer than eighteen metal suits of armour. The walls are bedecked with the personal crests of lawyers past, their names magniloquently latinised. A profession that often charges by the hour has either seen no reason - or has no practical means to shut off - the hourly chimes of a venerable mechanical clock during the concerts. The concerts are extremely well run, and the programme book - last night's had thoughtful notes by Richard Stokes - is as well-produced as any in London. The reasonable ticket prices also include a glass of very good wine.

The Temple Music Foundation wanted to mark the Wagner bicentenary. At Julius Drake's instigation, I understand, they brought in a genuine top-class Wagnerian soprano to sing the Wesendonck Lieder. Berlin-born Annette Dasch, the triumphant last-minute stand-in Elsa in La Scala's Lohengrin last winter, took the role again in Bayreuth this summer. In a gap between Wagner performances, she has been doing five recitals, of which this was the last, before taking up the role of Elisabeth in Tannhauser in Frankfurt. Dasch has the Wagnerian idiom completely in her bones, and has the vocal resources and stamina to make any phrase swell, bloom, triumph. Her Wesendonck Lieder were a performance of conviction and impeccably good judgment. Re-reading David Nice's review of the performance of these songs at the Proms serves as a reminder that some of them can be thought "a bit of a bore". They certainly weren't in this performance.

Julius Drake by Sim Canetty-ClarkeShe also had the benefit of Julius Drake's flawless, impeccably judged piano playing (Drake pictured right by Sim Canetty-Clarke). There were moments to treasure, such as the hushed, languorous yet measured opening and closing bars for piano in "Im Treibhaus", but what really stays in the mind is Drake's unfailing instinct, landing every chord throughout the evening in sympathy and synchronicity, and his deep sense of the shape of every twist and turn in each song. His feel of the stuttering, shifting pulse in the Mendelssohn/ Heine "Reiselied", his sheer pianistic command, made this a classic performance of a song which is far too often murdered.

It was an all too rare pleasure to hear the Schumann Op. 35 Kerner songs, but Dasch's interpretations felt too much acted out for the big stage she normally inhabits rather than directly communicated to the audience right in front of her, and the power and menace of her stare in "Auf das Trinkglas" were really quite disturbing. I also found that Dasch's use of her capacity to rebuild and swell notes within a vowel sound were something she does simply because she can, rather, than because the phrase actually needs it. That said, her controlled pianissimo in the songs from an irresistible "Stille Liebe" onwards was quite remarkable, and in the Wagner she cast all doubts aside, and won the audience over completely.

What really stays in the mind is Drake's unfailing instinct, landing every chord throughout the evening in sympathy and synchronicity


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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