Wigmore Hall Live: Margaret Price & Geoffrey Parsons

0 of 5 stars

Wer hat dies Leidlein erdacht
Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen
Das irdische Leben
Du bist die Ruh’
Die Forelle
Der blinde Knabe
Liebhaber in allen Gestalten
Der König in Thule
Gretchen am spinnrade
Heimliche Aufforderung
Freundliche Vision
Ruhe meine Seele
Du meines Herzens Krönelein
Seitdam dein Aug’

Margaret Price (soprano) & Geoffrey Parsons (piano)

Recorded on 8 December 1987 at Wigmore Hall, London

Reviewed by: John T. Hughes

Reviewed: May 2006
Duration: 61 minutes

To my ears, Margaret Price’s voice was of a lovely quality. It was a pleasure to hear her in a Mozart opera, for instance: her strong, gleaming tones as Donna Anna together with the softer but equally beautiful sound produced by Kiri Te Kanawa as Donna Elvira created sheer joy in “Don Giovanni” at Covent Garden.

This recital was Price’s debut at the Wigmore Hall. In later years, her enunciation became mannered, signs of which are here: the prolonging of final sibilants in particular, but what a fine vocal instrument we hear. She introduces welcome contrasts in her singing of each song. Let’s take the fourth and fifth of the Schubert group. For “Liebhaber in allen Gestalten” there is a touch of gaiety in the tone, replaced by a plaintive tinge for “Der König in Thule”, in which she and the excellent Geoffrey Parsons give a slow, eloquent reading intelligently shaped and, from Price, a long line over Parsons’s separated notes: a fine song splendidly performed. The piano part in “Gretchen am Spinnrade” reflects the turning of the spinning-wheel, becoming more agitated, while Price increases her volume, as Gretchen exclaims that she will never be at peace again.

In the Mahler group, the humour of “Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht” gives way to the eerie meeting in “Wo die schönen Trmpeten blasen”. Price relates it well. I think the tone should have been cut back on “Von Ferne sang die Nachtigall”, but it’s a commanding performance, with leaps to upper notes cleanly executed. Thence to the morbid “Das irdische Leben”, in which the insistent, feverish whirling of the piano part augments the desperation of the child wanting food. Price and Parsons capture the perturbation, the mounting tension.

The four Mahler songs are followed by the Strauss selection. The exhortation to the soul to rest in violent times is convincingly projected, but it is marred by some over-emphasised consonants: “…und vergissssss, was dichchch bedroht!”. That was Strauss’s “Ruhe, meine Seele”. In different vein is the ecstatic “Cäcilie”, in which Price soars grandly, before luxuriating in the intimate voluptuousness of “Morgen”. The recital ended with the ubiquitous but radiant “Zueignung”.

Despite my personal dislike of distorted consonants, much, very much, on this CD can be enjoyed without qualification. Apart from displaying the glory of Margaret Price’s voice, it serves as a reminder of (or, for younger collectors, perhaps an introduction to) the fine pianism of Geoffrey Parsons (1929-1995), who died while his career was still going strong. (It is rather worrying, however, to think that it was nearly 20 years ago that I attended this recital.)

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