EIF 17: Schwanewilms and Martineau Complement Each Other in Morning of Song





United KingdomUnited Kingdom Debussy, Wolf and Richard Strauss: Anne Schwanewilms (soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano), Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, 25.8.2012 (SRT)

Anne Schwanewilms credit to Javier del Real

The star of Anne Schwanewilms has been on a continual rise recently, and this morning proved that the reputation is justified. The first thing you notice is her stage presence: she has an opera singer’s ability to command a stage and she lives through all of her songs, but she does so more discretely than did Luca Pisaroni last Thursday.

Hers is a very special voice, a remarkably complete soprano. The tone is rich and full, with a beautifully ripe top. In fact, her pearly top notes sometimes seem to give the impression of cresting a wave of ecstasy. I found it a thrilling voice to listen to; sumptuous and opulent with a quality of luxury. The depth of her seemingly symbiotic communication with her accompanist was also lovely to see, often exchanging a wink or a smirk as if to congratulate one another.

Wolf and Strauss fit securely into the core German repertoire with which she is so readily associated, but beginning with Debussy was a welcome surprise. The four songs of his Proses Lyriques are set words written by the composer himself. They’re often painful to read but when sung they conjure up an image of sensuality that is hard to resist, whether the heady decadence of De rêve or De jour or the sprightly excitement of De soir.

Strauss and Wolf are closer to what she does, and featuring ten of Wolf’s Mörike Lieder gave us the full range of the composer’s interaction with this poet, from the joy of nature in Im Frühling and Auf einer Wanderung, though to the desolation of the abandoned servant girl in Das verlassene Mägdelein or the renunciatory stillness of Verborgenheit.

The breathless (or sometimes breathy) excitement to Schwanewilms’ use of the words distinguished her as a true sound painter, using tone and diction to inhabit the world of the songs. This was a well planned, beautifully realised recital from two artists who came together as complementary halves to make a wonderful morning of song.

The Edinburgh International Festival runs until Sunday 2nd 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