Anne Schwanewilms & Roger Vignoles at Wigmore Hall [Debussy, Richard Strauss and Wolf]

Proses Lyriques
In goldener Fülle, Op.49/2; Wer lieben will, muss leiden, Op.49/7; Ach was Kummer, Qual und Schmerzen, Op.49/8; Blauer Sommer, Op.31/1; Weisser Jasmin, Op.31/3; Das Rosenband, Op.36/1
Three Mörike Lieder [Elfenlied; Selbstgeständnis; Storchenbotschaft]

Anne Schwanewilms (mezzo-soprano) & Roger Vignoles (piano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 18 May, 2009
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Anne SchwanewilmsGiven her position as a leading interpreter of Wagner, it seemed wholly appropriate for Anne Schwanewilms to open this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert with a cycle by Claude Debussy that makes his love for the composer abundantly clear.

Published in 1895, “Proses Lyriques” is a concentrated quartet, the first song barely letting up in intensity despite lasting just over seven minutes. Schwanewilms was superbly controlled throughout the long, taxing phrases, with Roger Vignoles bringing deceptive simplicity to an accompaniment that also wanders far from the home key. The heady symbolist poems made an extremely strong impression in this performance, mainly thanks to the performers’ willingness to use tasteful rubato, giving the long phrases a chance to breathe. In ‘De grève’ there were reminders of the contemporaneous Prèlude à l’après-midi d’un faune, though as it progressed Schwanewilms found an ever-increasing urgency.

There followed a healthy selection of six Richard Strauss songs. These bore common themes of flowers and blooms, the mezzo responding to Vignoles’s crisp fanfares in ‘In goldener Fülle’, while singing rapturously of the “Blauer Sommer” (Blue Summer), where the pianist gave a suitably airy accompaniment.

In “Ach was Kummer, Qual und Schmerzen” Schwanewilms excelled in conversational asides, the subject of the song growing progressively more animated and frustrated. These gestures and mannerisms were brilliantly contrived and humourous, perfectly attuned to Strauss’s comedic writing. Of a more broadly amorous nature was the closing “Das Rosenband”, its postlude hanging weightlessly from the piano.

In the irreverent “Mörike-Lieder” of Hugo Wolf, Schwanewilms showed off wonderful portamento ‘Elfenlied’, Vignoles again exemplary in his sharp-witted character profiles. To finish Schwanewilms told of ‘Storchenbotschaft’ (Stork Tidings), another nonsense-poem which required her to hit a top B flat at its climax. This she did with considerable aplomb, completely in the spirit of Wolf’s humour.

A beautifully controlled “Verborgenheit” followed as an encore.

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