sat 13/04/2024

Daneman, Bostridge, Drake, Middle Temple Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Daneman, Bostridge, Drake, Middle Temple Hall

Daneman, Bostridge, Drake, Middle Temple Hall

Pianist and soprano capture Schumann's emotional range, but the tenor seems distracted

Ian Bostridge: distractedBenjamin Ealovega

Temple Music's enterprising song series, directed by pianist Julius Drake, brought a welcome rarity to Middle Temple Hall last night. Schumann's Myrthen, the garland of twenty-six songs dedicated to his intended bride Clara Wieck, are seldom heard in a complete performance. Even with an interval in the middle, they serve as a reminder of the power and sheer emotional range of Schumann's music.

These songs were almost certainly the catalyst which set in motion the composer's miraculous 'Liederjahr' of 1840, in which he wrote virtually 140 solo songs and duets with piano.

At the heart of everything last night was Julius Drake. One song where everything went completely right, the expressive weight, the shape and line, was the second "Lied der Braut" to words by Rückert, sung by soprano Sophie Daneman. It is a short song which could pass by unnoticed, but from the hushed opening chords to its to the final “lass' mich” it conveyed sheer magic. Drake also delivers power and authority when required, not least in setting the scene for the opening of "Rätsel" with a powerfully declaimed B natural.

Sophie DanemanSophie Daneman's infectiously bright soprano voice recalled the inimitable Elly Ameling at her best. There were endless musical things to admire: she nailed the tricky rising fourth-fifth-sixth figure at the end of each verse of "Highland Lullaby" to perfection. I also liked the way she conveyed the seamlessness of the melodic line when, as happens all the time in Schumann, it is passed back and forth to the piano part.

She is a singer who radiates charm and involvement, with a vivacious and engaging platform manner. It is not all abut lightness: she was also reaching deep into the subtleties of the poems. There is scarcely a verse in Heinrich Heine's poetry which is not suffused with questioning irony, which she delivered in just the right measure to "Die Lotosblume". There were also clever word-painting and gesture in a line such as "das Mägdlein horchet" (the girl listens out) where the sense of wanting to be surprised came across vividly. In the songs where Ian Bostridge was singing, and where she was sitting back and watching, she remained an encouraging and supportive presence.

Ian Bostridge's performance was far more problematic. He didn't seem fully to warm up until the second half of the concert; it took him a long time to find reliable pitch, and in the early part of the recital he looked very distracted. Daneman's charm and irresistible musicality were what kept the show on the road. She was also far better prepared in the later vocal duets by Schumann which had begun the programme.

Close to the end of the concert, however, in two Schumann duets from 1840, where an ardent boy is begging to be let in to a girl's room, Bostridge's mood lightened up considerably, and he finally engaged fully in the proceedings. In the encore, all three protagonists brought an irresistible warmth to that all-too-rare thing, a Schubert vocal duet, “Licht und Liebe”. It rounded off the evening exquisitely.

Sophie Daneman's infectiously bright soprano voice recalled the late and inimitable Elly Ameling at her best.


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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Hello, A lovely review of a recital I wish I could have attended. One small remark: you mention "the late ... Elly Ameling" . Fortunately, Elly Ameling is still very much alive: she still gives masterclasses in The Netherlands.

Het spijt me vreselijk, for that terrible error which I have now amended.  

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