Kings Place, Hall One
Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart, op.135
Frauenliebe und –leben, op.42
O ihr Herren, op.37 no.3
Volksliedchen, op.51 no.2
Singet nicht in Trauertönen, op.98a/7
Ann Murray (mezzo-soprano)
Iain Burnside (piano)
This was one of the two concluding concerts in Kings Place’s Schumann 200 Festival, curated by Lucy Parham. I wish I had been able to attend the masterclass given by the same artists earlier in the day, for this song recital proved a winning contribution to the Schumann bicentenary.
If Schumann’s late Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart (‘Poems of Mary Queen of Scots’) are finally receiving greater attention, that is some testimony to what such anniversary celebrations can achieve. Robin Holloway’s delectable transcription and encasement was premiered at the Proms last month; now it was time for the original. Ann Murray and Iain Burnside caught the dignity and starkness of this little, much misunderstood cycle with an intense yet understated musico-dramatic reading that at times looked forward to Wagner. The distilled necessity of what one heard was just right for these songs. More will so often be less here, but there was no attempt to overburden them with extraneous ‘emotion’. Diction and musical clarity were second to none.
Frauenliebe und –leben takes one back to a happier time, not just biographically but musically too. There were occasions when Murray could not disguise the loss of bloom in her voice, likewise odd intonational slips, but these counted for little when set against her moving response to verse and music. Schumann’s multifarious responses to the possibilities of life and love were treated in exemplary fashion, from youthful impetuosity to the marital devotion of Du Ring an meinem Finger. Burnside ensured that the cyclical quality of Schumann’s writing was very much to the fore. Detailed musical responses throughout, clarity of part-writing especially notable, were knowingly encased by the prologue and the concluding return of its material. Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan (‘Now you have caused me pain for the first time’) signalled both withdrawal and return, the truest poignancy, as so often with Schumann, in the piano. Simplicity that was never simplistic characterised the delightful Rückert settings, Volksliedchen and O ihr Herren, whilst a remembrance of things past, of youthful expectation, was not only to be heard but also felt in Singet nicht in Trauertönen.