Proms at … Cadogan Hall/Proms Chamber Music 5: Louise Alder & Gary Matthewman

“As we reach the 19th century in our Monday-lunchtime survey of music spanning over 800 years, soprano Louis Alder returns, with pianist Gary Matthewman, for a solo recital of songs from across Europe, including Lieder by Schubert, and by both Mendelssohn and his sister Fanny (published under her married name of Hensel), whose final song, ‘Bergeslust’ – completed just a day before her death at the age of only 41 – tempers joy with a poignant ending. The many facets of love are exposed in Felix Mendelssohn’s ‘Der Mond’ and ‘Neue Liebe’, as well as in Chopin’s ‘Sliczny chłopiec’ (Handsome Lad) and songs by Liszt and Rossini.” [BBC Proms website]

Louise Alder (soprano) & Gary Matthewman (piano)

Reviewed by: Alexander Campbell

Reviewed: 19 August, 2019
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London

BBC Proms 2019's Proms At Cadogan HallLouise Alder & Gary MatthewmanPhotograph: Twitter @WillAlder / Will AlderSongs in four languages from the nineteenth-century and, Schubert apart, by composers generally better known for other musical genres.

Louise Alder has an extraordinarily relaxed and attuned relationship with Gary Matthewman, allowing each to shine. She brought wonderful tonal variety, a sense of drama and playfulness and real technical assurance, whilst he relished all the showy or descriptive qualities of the accompaniments.

The recital commenced with Schubert, the piano providing the propulsive whirling of Gretchen’s loom in Gretchen am Spinnrade whilst Alder found just the right tints of anguish for Goethe’s betrayed heroine, culminating in an intense recollection of Faust’s kiss. In Nacht und Träume the duo evoked mystery and nocturnal quiet, Alder being cleverly sparing in her use of vibrato, and they brought out the similarities and contrasts of Mendelssohn’s Der Mond, while in Die Forelle the watery cascades and eddies of the stream in which Schubert and Schubart’s trout is playing before being caught on the angler’s line were beautifully evoked by Matthewman.

A slight skittishness imbued Alder’s interpretation of the Elven procession in Mendelssohn’s Neue Liebe – until the queen smiled on the observer, bringing her enchantment to a distinctly nervy conclusion. Mendelssohn’s sister Fanny Hensel (she published under her married name) wrote the next three settings; all rather subtle in their evocation of mood and yet full of the big themes of Nature and Love, not least describing migrating birds (with undertones of human romance), sung with attractive abandon. Of the five songs by Liszt, Oh Lieb, so lang du lieben kannst was the emotional core of the recital, raptly intense and with Matthewman casting a wonderful sense of the improvisatory in the concluding bars evoking uncertainty and hope.

Alder was very impressive with the Polish language in the two numbers by Chopin, both set to infectious mazurka rhythms, and the programme ended with a dazzling account of Rossini’s Canzonetta spagnuola, with Matthewman ratcheting up the tempo a notch for each verse, Alder responding with astoundingly precise trills, turns and agility.

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