Wigmore Hall Live: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson & Roger Vignoles

0 of 5 stars

Ariodante – E vivo ancora … Scherza infida
Theodora – As with rosy steps
Five Rilke Songs – Stiller Freund; O ihr Zärtlichen
Ashoka’s Dream – So many years have passed [Triraksha’s aria]

Spiritual – Deep River
Unbewegte laue Luft Op.57/8

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (mezzo-soprano) & Roger Vignoles (piano)

Recorded on 30 November 1998 in Wigmore Hall, London

Reviewed by: John T. Hughes

Reviewed: March 2007
Duration: 59 minutes

At the actual concert, Lorraine Hunt, as she was before her marriage the following year to the composer Peter Lieberson, sang the Handel arias before the Mahler songs, but for some reason the Mahler items come first on this CD.

Can there be much doubt that Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, who died in 2006, was a fine singer? Her intelligence combined with a lovely voice to make her someone to whom one always listened with interest even when one was not completely attuned to the music which she was singing. The chronological range in this recital is from Handel’s “Ariodante” to Peter Lieberson’s setting of Rilke, the latter surely not written in 2001 (as the booklet note advises)? This recital is from 1998!

Her gentle way with ‘Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft’, which begins the Mahler group, exactly caches the essence of the song. To ‘Liebst du um Schönheit’ she brings a wistfulness, while the resignation and hope of ‘Um Mitternacht’ draw forth an intensity that is matched by the richness and modulations of her voice, rising at and to the climax. The introspection which she finds in ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’, placed last in Hunt Lieberson’s order, is conveyed in soft tones, sad and calming. How pleasing it is too to hear German consonants not exploded or distorted.

Peter Lieberson’s pieces reveal the warm lower-middle tones in the singer’s voice: nothing raucous, but smoothly rounded sound eased out, tenderly so in ‘O ihr Zärtlichen’, more fully for ‘Stiller Freund’, most dramatically in Triraksha’s aria from the opera that Lieberson wrote for Santa Fe Opera. This is a creator’s role, as collectors of old 78s used to like to point out. It is a strongly emotional piece, which Hunt Lieberson delivers in colourful accents. The music dates from 1996 but is not impenetrable; relish the mezzo’s interpretation.

Savour too her tracing of the gently undulating line of ‘As with rosy steps’, one of Handel’s slow, graceful and beautiful melodies. Hunt Lieberson sings with seeming simplicity but in reality well honed technique on an even flow of breath: utterly delightful. If, however, you want the more extroverted Handel, ‘Scherza infida’ enables the singer to show the full panoply of her vocal strength, which Hunt Lieberson does winningly. I played the Handel arias last, because I knew they would make a fine conclusion

Roger Vignoles provides his usual high standard of colleagueship, be he sympathetically advancing in the “Theodora” aria or producing percussively crashing chords in ‘Stiller Freund’.

As in the other song recitals included in the Wigmore Hall Live series, texts and translations are thoughtfully provided.

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