Lise Davidsen and Leif Ove Andsnes at Barbican Hall

Grieg, Richard Strauss, Wagner

Lise Davidsen (soprano) & Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)

Reviewed by: Alexander Campbell

Reviewed: 13 January, 2022
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

Pace some precipitate bursts of applause before the artists had indicated their performances had ended there was nothing not to like in this sensational recital. To have Leif Ove Andsnes partner Lise Davidsen was a significant draw. Davidsen’s voice is a luxurious instrument – supple, warm, integrated and expansive with seemingly boundless reserves of power and palette of colours. The pair have evident rapport, sharing and interweaving the musical threads and responding as one to the texts. Felicities abounded in Grieg’s Six Songs (Opus 48), which should be heard more often.  

Davidsen introduced Grieg’s captivating stand-alone ‘Haugtussa’ before singing it, explaining the inspirations that the wide Norwegian landscapes, the cycle of nature and the importance of solitude lend to the Norwegian spirit. She detailed how Grieg’s songs stress these aspects but also encapsulate the excitement and abandon of first love and first kisses and the pain and anguish of betrayal.

Richard Strauss opened the recital’s second half. ‘Ruhe, meine Seele’ was afforded a rather forceful interpretation – it was almost a vehement assertion of what was required after two years of Covid devastation. ‘Cäcilie’ was as impulsive as one could have wished for and ‘Befreit’ cast its spell. Andsnes’s playing brought extraordinary detail.  Then came Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder, which require great vocal technique, particularly an ability to sustain long lines at less than full volume, the settings evoking the heady and heavy atmosphere of Tristan und Isolde. Davidsen showed her mastery, spinning out gorgeous tone and touching in the text superbly. Two encores, one by Strauss, the other by Grieg. Where will this wonderful voice go next?

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