United Kingdom Oxford Lieder Festival – The Schubert Project. The ‘Kosegarten Liederspiel’: Sophie Junker (soprano), Belinda Williams (mezzo soprano), Mark Wilde (tenor), David Owen Norris (fortepiano), Holywell Music Room, Oxford 17.10.2014. (MH)
Lieder text by Theobul Kosegaten:
Das Finden, D219
Idens Nachtgesang, D227
Von Ida, D228
Die Erscheinung ‘Erinnerung, D229
Die Täuschung, D230
Das Sehnen, D231
Geist der Liebe, D233
Der Abend, D221
Abends unter der Linde (1st setting), D235
Abends unter der Linde (2nd setting), D237
Die Mondnacht, D238
Alles um Liebe, D241
An Rosa I, D315
An Rosa II, D316
Idens Schwanenlied, D317
Luisens Antwort, D319
An die untergehende Sonne, D457
Die Sterne, D313
This recital was a rare opportunity to hear a relatively new  interpretation of songs from the poet and pastor Theobul Kosegaten. The Introductory programme notes state: “In 1996 Morten Solvik showed that Schubert’s Kosegarten songs were a narrative cycle – Schubert’s first song-cycle, for three singers. Individually insignificant (though charming), when they’re put together in the right order they tell a tale of love & loss that has gripped and enthused audiences across the world since the modern premiere in Chicago in 1997.”
This recital proved to be a delightful insight into the world of a Schubert musical evening where his songs were presented as a playlet. David Owen Norris gave a comical, yet informative introduction to the song set, including observations on the world of Schubert, his life and loves. He also provided his own Broadwood piano built in the year Schubert died – 1828 and tuned in authentic pitch.
The three characters in the piece are Wilhelm, Ida and Luisa. Mark Wilde made a delightful character sketch as the cheeky infatuated tenor, Wilhelm. His bright tones engaging the ear immediately and expressing clearly a suitable range of emotions throughout the cycle. Ich hab’ ein Mädchen funden [Das Finden] when Wilhelm meets Ida set us up for the story to come. The excitement of a new lover [this time the mezzo] in Die Täuschung was beautifully interpreted with crisp diction and a sparkle in the eye. His body language for each song was excellent and the use of a libretto in hand did not detract from any of the performances.
The ladies in the piece were dressed contrastingly and vocally matched their amorous protagonist. The Ida of Sophie Junker was mellifluous in tone, beautifully conveying the happiness of Idens Nachtgesang conrasting with the despondency of lost love in Von Ida. She gave a truly operatic interpretation added to by the effective staging of the later section where she exited the performance area having decided to take her own life.
The character of Luisa was sung by mezzo Belinda Williams. Here was a rich toned voice
expressively lyrical in Nachtgesang contrasting with the mixture of powerful emotion in Luisens Antwort. This voice was strong throughout the vocal register, technically excellent.
In duet the voices were well balanced, each singer clearly aware of the other and the accompaniment. No performance was selfish.
A special delight of this recital was the piano playing of David Owen Norris. It is no surprise that he has become closely associated with this song set. Every nuance from the singer was caressed by the piano from resonant bass to pianissimi of the lightest touch. He was an integral part of the story telling. Truly a study in accompaniment and also solo playing of great beauty and understanding.
The Holywell Music Room, as ever, was perfect for this recital. An appreciative audience
were enthusiastic in their applause for this excellent performance. A huge thank you again to The Schubert Project for making this Liederspiel possible.