It might seem perverse to single out the only non-native composer from a recital given over largely to French song, but if one had to pick a highlight from Christiane Karg’s Proms recital at Cadogan Hall, it would be Guridi’s Seis canciones castellanas.
The music is not un-French in feel, and it’s certainly not self-consciously Iberian – but there is a range of contrast here that showed off Karg and Malcolm Martineau to always-convincing effect: some almost conversational passages in the first song; a dark and stormy second; jumpy edginess in the third; and the lovely, contemplative fourth. And indeed the final setting might easily be Debussy, with its jewel-like accompaniment.
Perhaps the other highest point, in a programme where there were really no low ones, was the encore: the otherworldly ‘Kaddish’ from Ravel's Deux mélodies hébraïques, displaying Karg’s superlative vocal control and making an appropriate conclusion to a lunchtime of music which, for all that it was superficially limited in place and time, drew on such a wide range of geographic and cultural influences.
Singer and pianist opened with a full-throated account of Duparc, yet here as elsewhere it was not just the big effect that interested Karg and Martineau, but also the moments of simple beauty. Notable later were Ravel’s Cinq mélodies populaires grècques, as limpidly dramatic as Ravel should be; the more downbeat Hahn; and the angular Poulenc songs forming an energetic climax.
- Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (available on BBC iPlayer for thirty days afterwards)
- BBC Proms www.bbc.co.uk/proms