Anne Schwanewilms & Roger Vignoles at Wigmore Hall – Debussy & Schumann

Proses lyriques
Liederkreis, Op.39

Anne Schwanewilms (soprano) & Roger Vignoles (piano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 9 September, 2013
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Anne Schwanewilms. Photograph: © Javier del RealA new season of BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concerts at Wigmore Hall began with a sumptuous quartet of Debussy mélodies. Proses lyriques dates from 1893 and not among the composer’s best known vocal works. Set to Debussy’s own texts, they incurred some derogatory comments from his contemporaries. Yet the songs express Debussy’s feelings and also that he had recently heard Wagner’s Parsifal. The intense settings are characterised by very long phrases, given here with complete control from Anne Schwanewilms, whose mellifluous tone at the start of ‘De rêve’ was a joy to behold. ‘De grève’ (Of the shore) is the most striking of the four songs, a seascape with an especially complex piano part that made complete sense in Roger Vignoles’s thoughtful and pictorial performance – indeed the frothy tops of the waves were all but visible! How carefully Schwanewilms built towards to the heady “warm white kiss” of the end. Wearing a vivid red dress, Schwanewilms radiated quite a presence, using the lower range of her voice with the utmost care and precision while allowing the higher register to ring out. Finally the mood lightened for ‘De soir’.

Robert Schumann described his second Liederkreis as “my most romantic music ever”. Dedicated to Clara, the twelve Eichendorff settings form a satisfying cycle of rapturous love, tinged with uncertainty and moments of darkness. This was a richly romantic interpretation with ‘In der Fremde’ a beautiful opener (Vignoles’s evocation of the murmuring brook a delight) and ‘Mondnacht’, one of Schumann’s finest Lieder, bringing music of the utmost serenity, especially at its heavenly finish. By contrast, ‘Auf einer Burg’ began wearily, describing the old knight who has fallen asleep, and in ‘Zwielicht’ there was a sense of Schwanewilms lost in thought before the “wary and watchful” mood of the closing lines took over. Vignoles’s depiction of the conflicting echoes of sound on the mountainside in ‘Im Walde’, where the poet’s uncertainty raised its head again, was again notable and, with all doubts perished, during an exultant ‘Frühlingsnacht’ Schwanewilms sang with both rapture and clarity.

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