Bernarda Fink & Roger Vignoles

An ***; Frage nicht; Die ihr schwebet; In dem Schatten meiner Locken
Alma Mahler
Die stille Stadt; Laue Sommernacht; Bei dir ist es traut; Licht in der Nacht
Gustav Mahler
Frühlingsmorgen; Ich ging mit Lust durch einen grünen Wald; Ablösung im Sommer; Lob des hohen Verstandes
Sieben frühe Lieder

Bernarda Fink (mezzo soprano) & Roger Vignoles (piano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 28 January, 2008
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Bernarda FinkIn this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert Bernarda Fink and Roger Vignoles examined Mahler’s music in the context of influences: his and on him.

Hugo Wolf was born in the same year as Mahler, and the chosen selection here showed a poetic response to text and sharply defined moods. Vignoles manfully overcame page-turning difficulties to portray the restless wind of “Die ihr schwebet”, in which Fink sounded ill at ease. A solemn performance of the curiously titled “An ***”, Wolf’s Lenau setting of 1877, was complemented by the softer, lovelorn delivery of “Frage nicht”, its nocturnal outpouring of love richly evident.

The real charmer, however, was “In dem Schatten meiner Locken”, Fink and Vignoles capturing the exquisite tension of wondering whether or not to wake a sleeping partner. Both treaded carefully, with a lovely slight of humour.

Roger Vignoles. Photograph: Ben EalovegaThere were noticeably fuller harmonies in the four Lieder of Alma Mahler, thought to be written before her marriage and during her liaison with Zemlinsky. Vignoles’s softly-brushed right-hand accompaniment to “Bei dir ist es traut” reflected the notion of safety, while a big climax to “Licht in der Nacht” was fulsome from Fink yet totally controlled. The darkness to light of “Die stille Stadt” was perhaps more obviously achieved than in Gustav Mahler’s music, though it was subtly nuanced.

Mahler himself threw open the windows with “Frühlingsmorgen”, Vignoles relishing the evocations of birdsong and bees. A similar exuberance captured the essence of “Lob des hohen Verstandes”, Fink’s characterisation of the donkey especially well done, while her control of the melody of “Ich ging mit Lust” was extremely fine, the words of “Ablösung im Sommer” also well defined. Here again the role of Vignoles was crucial, supplying the staccato to depict the dead cuckoo and the florid figuration for the nightingale.

Finally a ravishing account of Alban Berg’s “Sieben frühe Lieder” that concentrated on fullness of tone and the richness of the composer’s harmonic language, elusive at times yet fully making sense through Vignoles’s guidance, in particular the exotically coloured ‘Traumgekrönt’. The ending of the short ‘Im Zimmer’ was beautifully tapered, while the passionate exultations of ‘Liebesode’ were again rich but not too heady.

As an encore wass an affectionate “Rheinlegendchen”, returning to Mahler once more. Bowing towards each other at the end, these artists’ mutual appreciation and musical chemistry could be clearly perceived.

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