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

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Bayreuther Festspiele 2017 – Operas, Symposium, Concerts, Cinema and More __________________________________
  • NEW! Summer Music in Cincinnati 2017 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Pierre Boulez Saal’s 2017/18 Season in Berlin __________________________________
  • NEW! The National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company – 2017 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Roman River Music’s Summer Weekend – 14-16 July __________________________________
  • NEW! Birmingham and Beyond: Ex Cathedra in 2017/18 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Glyndebourne Opera Cup and Glyndebourne in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Culture and the Coast: Garsington’s Opera for All and Forthcoming Opera Screenings __________________________________
  • NEW! 2017 BBC Proms from Friday 14 July – Saturday 9 September __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich Announces Details of New Season 2017/2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Grange Park Opera’s 2017 Season in its New Opera House __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House Announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! ANGELA BROWNRIDGE IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich Announces New Chief Conductor __________________________________
  • NEW! THE GREAT CANADIAN ARTISTS: AN INTERVIEW WITH VIOLINIST JAMES EHNES __________________________________
  • NEW! PIANIST KIRILL GERSTEIN IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! IN MEMORIAM LOUIS FRÉMAUX (1921-2017) __________________________________
  • NEW! Robert Farr reports on the 26th Annual Singing Competition Final – Elizabeth Harwood Memorial Award for Singers __________________________________
  • UPDATED IN MEMORIAM NICOLAI GEDDA (1925-2017) __________________________________
  • NEW! BARITONE MICHAEL VOLLE IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • NEW! PIANIST ALEXANDER KARPEYEV IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! Reviews of Opera in Mumbai: A Gala and La Bohème Revisited __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H