A Remarkable Recital by Juliane Banse and Malcom Martineau

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Schumann, Mahler, Duparc, Schoenberg: Juliane Banse (soprano); Malcom Martineau (piano). Wigmore Hall, London, 30.1.2015 (CC)

Schumann       Six Poems of Mikolaus Lenau and Requiem, Op. 90
Mahler: Des Antonius von Padua Fischprädigt;
Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen;
Lob des hohen Verstandes;
Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht?
Duparc            Chanson triste;
Le manoir de Rosamonde;
L’Invitation du voyage
Schoenberg     Vier Lieder, Op. 2
Mahler             Rückert-Lieder


It was a joy to encounter such wonderful, intelligent programming at the Wigmore Hall for this concert by the phenomenally talented soprano, Juliane Banse. Mainly of Austro-Germanic bent, the inclusion of some Schoenberg had clearly scared off some people – the event was far from sold out – but those of us who made it were richly rewarded.

First came Schumann’s Op. 90. Beginning with Lied eines Schmiedes (‘Blacksmith’s Song’), a simple ditty to show off Banse’s simply gorgeous voice, it was the next song, Meine Rose that really revealed Banse’s sensitivity to Schumann in her perfect phrasing. It was nice, too, to hear a singer unafraid of a proper vocal staccato. As the mood changed via the winding piano lines of Einsamkeit (‘Solitude’), the music became ever more inward. The dark Der schwere Abend (‘The oppressive evening’) led to the beautiful Requiem, a miniature tone-poem which was done full justice by Banse and the ever-attentive Martineau.

Mahler is in many ways a logical continuation from Schumann, and a selection of songs spoke with sincerity and individuality. The familiar, playful Sankt Antonius von Padua fischprädigt and the fairy-tale Rheinlegendschen told of Banse’s abilities as a story teller, while singer and pianist conspired to provide utter desolation in the poignant Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen. The selection itself was interesting, including the lesser-known Errinerung and Frühlingsmorgen, both of which date from around 1880. If Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht? was heavier than one might naturally expect, it too contained riches. Banse’s voice is capable of great subtleties, while Martineau somehow conveys great character without ever being overbearing.

If there was an odd man out amongst the composers, it surely had to be Henri Duparc. Banse’s selection of four songs found her in more velvety voice, showing off her sonorous lower register. The 1874 song Extase revealed an exquisite vocal cantabile supported by a miraculous bed of sound from the piano, while L’invitation au voyage was simply magical in every way. That said, the music did seem somewhat incongruous amongst its decidedly Austro-Germanic companions.

Still, Schoenberg’s Vier Lieder, Op. 2 were exemplary, with Banse’s perfect intervals enabling the expressivity of Schoenberg’s melodic shapes to carry full force. Passion, abandonment and character all conspired towards one of the most memorable performances of these songs this reviewer has so far encountered. Finally, it was back to Mahler for the Rückert-Lieder, songs of tremendous expressive force and power. The Mahlerian gentleness of Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft, the fluent piano accompaniment of Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder! was pure joy but it was the stark desolation of Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen and the delicate concluding Um Mitternacht that carried full-on emotional weight.

A remarkable recital!


Colin Clarke



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