Venise; O ma belle rebelle
6 Gesänge, Op.47 – Minnelied; Der Blumenstrauss; Volkslied
La chanson d’Eve, Op.95
Spring waters, Op.14/11; How fair this spot, Op.21/7
Mireille Delunsch (soprano) & Maciej Pikulski (piano)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 30 June, 2008
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
The theme of this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert appeared to be water, its frequent references made through the music of a diverse selection of composers and song-writing techniques.
Gounod’s songs continue to receive the exposure they perhaps deserve – at least on the evidence of the two heard here. Delunsch showed herself to have a relaxed performing manner – not complacent, but totally at ease, projecting the louder notes with power when needed. In “Venise” the voice was a softer instrument, allowing the shift between major and minor keys to come through in Maciej Pikulski’s deliberately tentative piano part. In “O ma belle rebelled” the melodic line floated weightlessly, Pikulski’s accompaniment equally light to the touch.
Mendelssohn’s songs respond well, too, to this approach, and ‘Der Blumenstrauss’, which may have been a little cool, nonetheless brought through the countermelodies in the piano’s left-hand part. ‘Volkslied’, which was sung on the occasion of the composer’s farewell appearance at the Leipzig Gewandhaus, was similarly restrained though its hymn-like qualities came through.
The work benefitting most from this approach was Fauré’s cycle “La chanson d’Eve”, and the delicate sleights of the tricky part for the piano were fully communicated. The chromatic lines of the expansive ‘Paradis’, the opening song, were followed by deep emotion in ‘Prima verba’ and the soporific mood as the white dawn came in ‘L’aube blanche’. All were beautifully realised by the performers, who made much of the unusually sombre final song, Delunsch’s lower range richer in timbre.
Unfortunately the singer suffered a tickly cough during Debussy’s “Proses lyriques”, but made a swift recovery. These songs are hard to gauge, for the composer’s own words are elusive and change mood and direction frequently. Delunsch was appropriately solemn when singing of the death of the Knights Templar in ‘De rêve’, while the “blessed water of wretched souls” was powerfully evocative in ‘De fleurs’.
The singer’s recovery was immediately evident in the two Rachmaninov songs. “Spring Waters” was joyous in its heralding of the new season, with the heroic piano part somehow giving the vocal line the room it needed. “How Fair This Spot” was beautifully sung, the “river shimmering” continuing the concert’s loosely applied theme.