Karita Mattila presented a demanding Lieder programme at Wigmore Hall. Extravagant dance rhythms of the gypsy variety opened proceedings. Brahms’s Zigeunerlieder are brief and bold flourishes based on the Hungarian Czárdás tradition with dotted melodies and lilting accompaniment, played with élan and attention to detail by Ville Matvejeff. Mattila, in dramatic red with a black shawl, conveyed the theatrical emotion of each love lyric with conviction, also painting subtler feelings when required. Depth and colour were in abundance in Mattila’s middle range, while her magnetic presence obliterated any quibbles about tuning or audibility of words.
Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder weave a very different Romantic world and this account was infused with much Mattila magic. She conveyed the melancholy erotic longing of ‘Im Treibhaus’ beautifully and brought a hallucinatory quality to ‘Träume’. Following the interval, Alban Berg’s Vier Lieder inhabited a similar psychological space; Mattila, now dressed in black with red shawl, enjoyed the shifting tonalities, and she animated the strange Mombert poems with delicious theatrical gestures.
A Richard Strauss selection closed the recital, opening with a glittering rendition of ‘Der Stern’. Two touching lullabies followed, the first, ‘Wiegenlied’, with a shimmering and virtuosic piano line, and the dream-like qualities of the Wesendonck settings found an ecstatic counterpart in ‘Wie sollten wir geheim sie halten’ and ‘Cäcilie’.
Friedrich Hollaender’s sexy cabaret number ‘Eine kleine Sehnsucht’ delighted as a first encore, and was followed by the Finnish ‘Kun päivä paista’ by Oskar Merikanto. One last song, Mattila’s trademark ‘Zueignung’ – Strauss again, from his Opus 10 – thrilled with its emotional power.