Fourteen Songs, Op.34 – X: I Remember that Day
Twelve Songs, Op.21 – III: Twilight has Fallen; V: Lilacs
Fifteen Songs, Op.26 – VIII: I Beg for Mercy; IX: Again I am Alone; XII: Night is Mournful
Six Songs, Op.8 – V: The Dream
Six Songs, Op.38 – IV: The Pied Piper
Tel jour, telle nuit, FP86
Alessandro Fisher (tenor) & Ashok Gupta (piano)
Reviewed by: Amanda-Jane Doran
Reviewed: 10 November, 2019
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
Alessandro Fisher and Ashok Gupta both won prizes in the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards, and from this stylish and composed recital at Wigmore Hall it is easy to see why. Singer and accompanist approached the Schumann Liederkreis opus 24 with patience and gravitas. This was a performance that revealed its treasures gradually and with subtlety. The opening ‘Morgens steh’ ich auf und frage’ initially appeared bright and sunny, but by the second stanza the poet’s insomniac grief is pointing to a different emotion. Fisher’s golden tone and natural phrasing commanded an intimacy with the audience as the mood of Heinrich Heine’s verses lurched between a lyrical dream-like state and disturbed agitation. Much has been written about the sardonic bitterness of Heine’s love poetry, which is hinted at by Schumann; what he did capture was the hallucinatory instability and wild changes of heart which occur within a stanza or a line. Fisher and Gupta expressed this perfectly in the contrast between the fifth and sixth songs, the sweet and lilting, but dark ‘Schöne Wiege meiner Leiden’ and the violent imagery of ‘Warte, warte wilder Schiffmann’. Musical and poetic motifs intertwined as voice and piano led us through turbulent seas and flower gardens adorned with graves. The beauty of Fisher’s youthful, light tenor emphasised the exquisite artistry behind the poetry; it will be interesting to see if his interpretation of this work deepens and darkens with age.
A selection of eight love songs by Rachmaninov followed; one of the most intense was another short lyric by Heine, ‘Son’ (Dream). Fisher relished the dramatic sweep of these melancholy and nostalgic settings which showcased his ease with Russian consonants and his elegant legato. The final song in this section, ‘Krysolov’ (The Pied Piper) was uncharacteristically cheerful and carefree in tone which Fisher gave with theatrical good humour.
Francis Poulenc’s song cycle Tel jour, telle nuit provided the perfect bookend to the complex and psychologically layered world of Schumann and Heine. The poet Paul Eluard was a paid up surrealist and the dissonant imagery of these intimate and observational love poems paired seamlessly with Poulenc’s delicate and haunting settings. The cycle, like Schumann’s, contains echoes and musical links between songs in the vocal line and in the piano part. Fisher and Gupta took the audience through different emotional landscapes as the poet switched from reflections on the natural world to his inner obsession with his lover. The final song ‘Nous avons fait la nuit’ (We have created night) was delivered to a rapt hall, and the extended postlude, played with plangent touch by Gupta, again took us straight back to the cycles of Schumann.
Alessandro Fisher selected ‘Gracia Mia’ by Granados as an encore, to pay homage on Remembrance Day to the composer who died in 1916 in a torpedo attack, attempting to save his wife from drowning.