Dorothea Röschmann & Graham Johnson

Die Trommel gerüret, Op.84/1
Freudvoll und leidvoll, Op.84/4
Kennst du das Land, Op.75/1
Wonne der Wehmut, Op.83/1
Aus Goethes Faust – Es war einmal ein König, Op.75/3
Frauenliebe und -leben, Op.42
Unbewegte, laue Luft, Op.57/8
Sapphische Ode, Op.94/4
Therese, Op.86/1
Von waldbekränzter Höhe, Op.57/1
Italienesches Liederbuch [selections]
Siete canciones populares españolas

Dorothea Röschmann (soprano) & Graham Johnson (piano)

Reviewed by: Rob Pennock

Reviewed: 23 April, 2007
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Dorothea Röschmann’s voice has a rich, mezzo-like character, with a well-developed lower register. Thankfully she uses legato, as opposed to the modern obsession with note delineation and cleanliness.

In the Beethoven there were some distinctive moments, including striking use of the lower register at the start of the last song and some exact pitter-patter at the end. But “Die Trommel” would have benefited from greater attack. In “Freudvoll und leidvoll” (both songs from Beethoven’s “Egmont” music) the tone became squally and the words completely inaudible at anything above forte. “Frauenliebe und -leben” suffered from poor intonation in the opening song and the second song was too slow – the beginning lacked rapture and the fifth stanza needed more impetuosity. ‘Du Ring an meinem Finger’ however was beautifully done, with a sense of confiding and intimate conversation. But there was no real sense of character. Everything was generalised and opaque.

Graham Johnson was his usual emphatic self – you don’t look for beautiful sounds from this player – and he did bring exceptional pointing to the wedding march at the end of ‘Helft mir’, as well as true sadness and resignation to the cycle’s postlude.

After the interval we had some bizarre programming. Why tag on Falla to an all-German recital? In every song the words needed greater pointing and colour, and once again in loud passages you couldn’t here the words or the actual notes being sung. In the Falla the fioritura was unnatural, a technical challenge rather than an integral part of the voice. Röschmann was however more at ease in the two slower songs, ‘Asturiana’ and ‘Nana’, but alas she is no Berganza or Supervia. These two singers were mezzos, and apart from the problems already mentioned, I sometimes did feel that I was listening to a mezzo. A high mezzo could easily have encompassed the note range, and in the Schumann I was initially confused as to what register Röschmann was in!

There were two encores, the second of which, by Wolf, was graced by an intro from the pianist. I did rather wonder if any programme with Graham Johnson should actually have the singer as second billing.

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