Petra Lang & Charles Spencer

Frauenliebe und -leben, Op.42
Richard Strauss
Kling!, Op.48/3
Wir beide wollen springen (1896)
Du meines Herzens Krönlein, Op.21/2
Lob des Leidens, Op.15/3
Wiegenlied, Op.41/1
Die Nacht, Op.10/3
Befreit, Op.39/4
Freundliche Vision, Op.48/1
Wie solten wir gehelm sie halten, Op.19/4

Petra Lang (mezzo-soprano) & Charles Spencer (piano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 14 May, 2007
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

A lunchtime recital mostly themed on love – with two very different approaches. Schumann’s quietly rapturous song cycle formed a good contrast with nine settings by Richard Strauss, all showing off the versatility and colour of Petra Lang’s voice.

Sensitively accompanied by Charles Spencer, Lang took a very slow approach to the first Chamisso poem in “Frauenliebe und -leben”, and was a little flat initially. But those minor issues aside, this was a performance full of good things. ‘Du Ring an meinem Finger’ found an easy control of the stepwise melody, while the excitement of the wedding party’s preparation was caught by both musicians in ‘Helft mir, ihr Schwestern’.

The centrepiece was ‘Süsser Freund, du blickest’, which found Lang floating the first note gorgeously, smiling as she sang. Even the eventual turn to darkness in ‘Nun hast du mir’ was done with a half smile, though Spencer’s accompaniment took a noticeably firmer hand.

The Strauss selection looked far and wide, from the well known (“Du meines Herzens Krönlein”) to the unpublished (“Wir beide wollen springen”), keeping the selection to the 19th-century. Lang was most impressive in the slow but sure melodic lines of “Wiegenlied”, while the darker hue of Strauss’s Dehmel setting “Befreit” was strongly portrayed, with a convincing held note at the end.

Charles Spencer, too, was fully responsive to his part, whether in the emphatic arpeggios of “Kling!” or the softly realised “Wiegenlied”, which found both in full control of the climactic crescendo.

At times in the Schumann, Spencer was in danger of overcompensating with rubato, save for a beautifully judged ‘postlude’, but in the Strauss songs his choices of tempos and rubato were more secure.

No more so than in Lang’s first encore of “Morgen”, whose airy introduction was mirrored in a spaced-out finish. Lang’s soft vocal in between carried the song weightlessly, while a stronger approach to a second encore “Mit deinen blauen Augen” brought another enthusiastic ovation. Once again Lang was wreathed in smiles – nice to see a singer so obviously enjoying her art.

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