Edinburgh Festival (14):Bostridge Recital Deserved More Intimate Venue

23/08/2013

EIF Logo

 

 

 

 Edinburgh International Festival 2013 (14) – Ives, Brahms, Schumann: Ian Bostridge (tenor), Lars Vogt (piano), Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 22.8.2013. (SRT)

Ian Bostridge1 (c) Ben Ealovegag

Ian Bostridge1 (c) Ben Ealovegag

Song recitals in the Usher Hall are seldom entirely successful. I’m certain they must only happen because of diary and venue clashes. The huge space of the hall dwarfs the lonely-looking singer and pianist on the large, empty stage, and the auditorium is only ever half full at best. It must be a fairly dispiriting environment in which to sing, and not nearly as grateful as the altogether more intimate (and suitable) Queen’s Hall. Great as his singing was, Ian Bostridge’s recital suffered from the same issues tonight, although he did his best to overcome them. Bostridge is a stage performer down to his fingertips, as seen by his vast experience in the opera house, and this led to him investing a huge amount of himself into his stage persona here. He acted his way through many of the songs with mixed results. It spoke well for his commitment that he was prepared to throw himself into the persona of the wounded lover, though it got a bit samey (and, I wonder, a little superficial?) when it was so oft repeated in the limited space he gave himself next to the piano.

When it worked, it did so very well, and nowhere more successfully than in Schumann’s marvellous Kernerlieder. Why, oh why isn’t this wonderful set heard more often?! Schumann’s identification with Kerner’s poetry is so complete that I’ve always found these songs every inch the equal of, say, Dichterliebe or Frauenliebe. Bostridge could screw his emotions into heights of supreme expression in, say, Stille Liebe or Stille Tränen, and the sincerity of his portrayals were intensely moving. He also showed his great gift as a storyteller in the ebullience of Wanderlied or, most successfully of all, in Stirb Lieb’ und Freud’. Underpinning the haunting, poignant quality of Bostridge’s voice was the sculptural accompaniment of Lars Vogt, anchoring the vocal line firmly in the Romantic piano tradition as well.

The Brahms settings of Op. 32 were also very strong, especially in Brahms’ great nature paintings. The opening set of Ives songs was rather puzzling, though. Songs of profound depth, such as Remembrance or Thoreau sat next to deliberately skittish numbers like 1, 2, 3 or Memories. This, the song that opened the recital, contained humorous patter and even a part for a kazoo, but it’s the sort of thing that normally ends a recital rather than begins it. The inconsistency of the Ives set as a whole meant that it was very difficult to settle into a particular mood or feeling, so extreme were the swings between songs. Perhaps it was Bostridge’s intention to undermine expectations, but I found it unsettling when, particularly in a venue such as this one, you need more connection with the singer, not a distancing effect.

The Edinburgh International Festival runs until Sunday 1st September at a range of venues across the city. A selection of performances will be reviewed in these pages. For full details go to www.eif.co.uk

Simon Thompson

Print Friendly

Comments

Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! 2018-2019 Geneva Grand Theâtre Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Hallé Season in Manchester __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 CBSO at Symphony Hall, Birmingham __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 BBC NOW in Cardiff and Swansea __________________________________
  • NEW! The Twelfth English Music Festival Coming Soon in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Kenneth MacMillan’s The Sleeping Beauty at the London Coliseum in June __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018/19 Birmingham Classical Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe Star in The King and I at the London Palladium __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 BBC Proms __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera Celebrates its 25th Anniversary with Nicolò Isouard’s Cinderella __________________________________
  • NEW! Pop-Up Opera’s 2018 Mozart Double Bill __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Let’s Dance International Frontiers (LDIF) 2018 Celebrates its Eighth Year __________________________________
  • NEW! Gloucester Choral Society’s Hubert Parry’s Centenary Celebrations in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Chess at the London Coliseum from 26 April for 5 Weeks __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! THE TENOR RUSSELL THOMAS IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! RAFAL BLECHACZ IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! The London Orchestra Project’s Metamorphosen on 27 May at LSO St Luke’s __________________________________
  • NEW! MARKUS POSCHNER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group Perform Massenet’s Thaïs at the Cadogan Hall on 23 June __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Carly Paoli Sings for Chelsea Pensioners, at Cadogan Hall, and Signs for Sony/ATV __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • NEW! A First Charity Classical Music Concert at Finchcocks on 27 May __________________________________
  • NEW! MICHAEL SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! Trinity Laban Moves to Abolish All-Male Composer Concerts __________________________________
  • NEW! ARABELLA STEINBACHER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! THE CONDUCTOR LAURENCE EQUILBEY IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! Newly Discovered Song by Alma Mahler to be Performed in Oxford and Newbury __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month