Ailish Tynan & Simon Lepper – LSO St Luke’s (18 March)

Lieder und Gesänge aus der Jugendzeit (Selection: Frühlingsmorgen; Erinnerung; Ich ging mit Lust; Ablösung in Sommer; Nicht wiedersehen; Scheiden und Meiden)
Five Lieder, Op.4
Ständchen, Op.17/2
Die Nacht, Op.10/3
Allerseelen, Op.10/8
Hat gesagt – bleibt’s nicht dabei, Op.36/3
Schlestes Wetter, Op.69/5
Morgen, Op.27/4
Zueignung, Op.10/1

Ailish Tynan (soprano) &
Simon Lepper (piano)

Reviewed by: John T. Hughes

Reviewed: 18 March, 2004
Venue: LSO St Luke’s, Old Street, London

The relatively new venue for education and music-making in London’s Old Street, the former church of St. Luke’s, is home to concerts of chamber music and to vocal recitals presented by the BBC. My first visit there was to hear the young Irish soprano Ailish Tynan, winner of the Rosenblatt song prize in the 2003 Cardiff Singer of the World, and the accomplished pianist Simon Lepper.

Anyone who works near Old Street or can spare the time will find LSO St Luke’s and its Jerwood Hall to be a pleasant, smallish place, about half the size of the Wigmore Hall, quite intimate whichever one of its 376 seats one is occupying. Actually, the history of the building since subsidence ended its life as a working church in 1959 is fascinating. (My thanks to Simon Wales at LSO St Luke’s for the information.) Based on my one ’sampling’ I should say that the Jerwood Hall is a little gem in an area of London which strikes me as soulless (apart from Wesley’s Chapel quite close by).

Ailish Tynan and Simon Lepper gave a programme devoted to three composers, beginning with six Mahler songs, a colourful little selection which allowed the singer to show that although her voice is one for pastel shadings rather than bold contrasts she could produce needed variety: enough variety, for instance, for the short middle section of the melancholic “Erinnerung”, and a deliberate touch of harshness to represent the dead cuckoo in “Ablösung in Sommer”, a little comic song. How delightful was the crystalline purity of the upper notes in “Ich ging mit Lust”, elegantly poised. Matching Tynan in every way and conveying the musical contrasts was her pianist, with a gently rippling arpeggio here, a telling rubato there, and in “Scheiden und Meiden” some flourishing fingerwork to reflect the galloping horse.

The cuckoo appears in one of Schreker’s Op.4 songs too: the tiny “Die Liebe als Recensentin”. It is another humorous piece, nicely caught by singer and player. Again they seemed to find the mood of each song, though I was hearing these Schreker compositions for the first time, and we were not provided with the words.

Far better known were seven often-heard Lieder by Strauss, ending with the ubiquitous “Zueignung”, here included in the main programme rather than unimaginatively trotted out as an encore as by so many singers (a private joke between a friend and me). From the gently enveloping darkness of night (“Die Nacht”) to the less peaceful family life of “Schlestes Wetter”, both performers again painted clearly the scene, Tynan swelling and diminishing her volume, hardening or dulcifying her tone throughout, then building the ardour of “Zueignung”. Best, though, was “Morgen”, sung and played with such feeling, and fine technique, that the listener might have been a voyeur with no right to be eavesdropping.

This recital is due to be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 at 1 p.m. on 23 April.

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