Sieben frühe Lieder
Vergebliches Ständchen, Op.84/4; Der Gang zum Liebchen, Op.48/1; Meine Liebe ist grün, Op.63/5; Von ewiger Liebe, Op.43/1
Illalle, Op.17/6; Vänskapens blomma, Op.57/7; Demanten på marssnön, Op.36/6; Våren flyktar hastigt, Op.13/4; Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings mote, Op.37/5
Der Stern, Op.69/1; Wiegenlied, Op.41/1; Allerseelen, Op.10/8; Frühlingsfeier, Op.56/5
Karita Mattila (soprano) & Martin Katz (piano)
Reviewed by: Melanie Eskenazi
Reviewed: 10 September, 2010
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
It was all a bit like returning home after a long journey. Standing room only for this opening recital to what promises to be a fabulous season at the Wigmore Hall ushered by the elegantly varied admonitions by the house manager not to cough, text, suck or breathe too loudly … and the unfailingly wonderful performance, despite the singer’s cold, for which she apologised but which barely affected her singing.
Karita Mattila and Martin Katz are the most strikingly contrasting pair – she’s a terrifyingly-gorgeous-for-fifty Valkyrie, he looks like my twin brother (that is, small but scrappy) yet the sound they make together could not be more homogenous. It was fascinating to compare their performance of Berg’s “Seven Early Songs” with that of Malin Christensson and Hans Eijsackers, heard recently in the Proms Chamber Music series: where the latter, younger pair gave us a sparkling, at times restless interpretation, Mattila and Katz collaborated in a performance of such searing intensity and pulse-quickening excitement that they almost made Berg sound like Wagner. There are few singers who can bring phrases such as “Weites Wunderland” in the first song, and “Deinen lieblichen Gesang” in the second, to such throbbing life, and certainly few accompanists who can echo the sung word so eloquently.
The Brahms group was equally fervent, with ‘Vergebliches Standchen’ providing a glimpse of the singer’s sense of humour without eliciting a single wince, and the closing ‘Von ewiger Liebe’ making you believe in the likelihood of the story about Clara Schumann having “sat there in silence … her face bathed in tears” when the composer played it to her.
Sibelius and Richard Strauss made up the second part of the concert, with the opening of Sibelius’s ‘Illale’ (Evening) superbly conveying the rapture of the poet’s feelings – the line “O evening, how I would hurry to you” brought gasps from the audience. Mattila’s Strauss-singing has long been that by which others may be judged, and her ‘Wiegenlied,’ the arpeggios played by Katz as though they were the easiest phrases written, touched heights of lyric grace. I would have liked the programme to have ended with their passionate performance of ‘Allerseelen’ rather than the abandoned ‘Frühlingsfeier’, but since a heartfelt ‘Zueignung’ was the encore, I had no complaints.
Karita Mattila had not sung in the Wigmore Hall for thirteen years, a most surprising omission, but this audience knows greatness when it experiences it – she must return soon.