Neue Liebe, neues Leben, Op.75/2
Das Geheimnis, WoO145
Aus Goethes “Faust”: Es war einmal ein König, Op.75/3
Seis Canciones Castellanas
Frauenliebe und -leben, Op.42
Daniela Lehner (mezzo-soprano) & Lada Valesová (piano)
Reviewed by: Rob Pennock
Reviewed: 12 February, 2007
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
This programme was sensibly planned for a singer at the beginning of her career: short and mixed German and Latin-American/Spanish song from the first halves of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.Beethoven’s “Neue Liebe” showed that her voice is big, well focused and projected, with beautiful dynamic variation in the middle of the first stanza and brilliant word-painting in the second. In the second song, the refulgent tone on “glüht” and at several other points in the recital made me want to hear her in Mahler. Disappointingly, the accompanist was far from imaginative. Everything was understated and there was little variation in tone and dynamics.
Jesús Guridi’s six songs gave the singer the chance to display rhythmic attack, as well as in-your-face emotional responses. She wasn’t entirely successful, but, to be fair, I’m not convinced that any Austrian (with the whole coffee-house-and-gateau culture) could be. The first song needed more bite and venom, the second more horror. ‘No quiero’ was, however, very beautiful tonally, but the emotion was too shallow. Once again Valesová was disappointing, being far too demur, and the rhythmic complexities eluded her.
By the end of the first half I was also conscious of a lack of real character from the singer. She moved over the surface – often very beautifully – of each song, but there was no real communication. This problem became very apparent in the great Schumann cycle.
“Frauenliebe und –leben” is a piece of gratuitous misogyny, in which it seems a women can only find happiness via a man, marriage and children! But this sort of nonsense was prevalent until about 30 years ago in the western world and it didn’t stop Schumann composing eight sublimely succinct songs. In the first one the tempo was too slow and there was a rare lapse in intonation. The start of the second setting needed more abandon, while the central section needed more pointing and the tempo was again leisurely. The entire cycle was full of generalised emotion; the singer simply wasn’t inside the psyche of the woman. Nor was Valesová: everything was plain and uninvolving; the postlude to the cycle carried no depth of feeling.
Joaquin Nin’s songs brought the concert to an exuberant conclusion, but still neither artist reached out and grabbed the audience. Nevertheless, Lehner has a superb voice and one can only hope that greater depth and insight will come with age. I would still love to hear her sing Mahler!