Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Music and the Mirrors

After a big, hard day’s work of gym and typing, we decided last night that we were due a relaxing night out.

Paul and I had both been looking for weeks for an opportunity to revisit the Spiegelsaal. We’d had such a treat there last year with the concert of the Trio Dan. Then, just before the end of their season, we spotted the programme for last night … soprano and piano in Berlioz, Britten and who? … well, sounds promising, give it a go.

Picking a concert like that is rather like pulling a card from a deck: you might get the two of clubs or, if you are lucky, the ace of spades. Well, last night we got the queen of hearts. The best surprise of the year. Maybe of years.

Léa Trommenschlager is a 28 year-old Alsatian soprano who has trained in France and in Berlin. I don’t know in which country and from which teacher she acquired her technique, but whichever and whoever it was is a star. I can’t remember when I have heard such a glorious, rich, seemingly effortless voice produced in such a beautiful fashion. The notes glided forth sweetly yet impressively, with never a rough edge, impeccably tuneful and in tune …
I jabbed Paul joyously with my elbow after the very first phrases of the Berlioz … we’ve picked a winner!
And it wasn’t just ‘the voice’. With what intelligence and understanding the young singer shaped her phrases. No shallow dramatics pasted onto the performance, the warmth and feeling came from the music, gently and easily and without artifice. Delicious.

The Berlioz ‘Nuits d’été’ provided the opportunity for a lavish display of the beauties of Mdlle Trommenschlager’s voice and singing. Lush and moody, and without showy vocal effects … you could sit back and just allow yourself to bathe in the langours of the music. This was our second bath in Berlioz this week, after the Damnation de Faust, and I rather preferred it to the first.

The second half of the concert was all new to me. First, a selection from a cycle called Yellow Leaves by Charlotte Bray and Caroline Cowie, based on Shakespeare’s sonnets. A curious idea, but the result was much more agreeable than the settings of the same works I heard last year at the Staatsoper. Then, Britten’s setting of Auden’s On This Island. Here, the singer let us see other facets of her talent – including humour and more florid singing. I see she has sung Fiordiligi at the Tischlerei so there is even more to her artillery than we got tonight. But I don’t think I want to hear Fiordiligi. Not yet anyhow. I just wanted more of what we got last night. More truly beautiful Lieder singing.

The vocalist’s partner in performance was the Latvian pianist Elizabete Sirante who fulfilled her half-share in the night’s music splendidly, helping to make the whole evening’s entertainment into what was certainly my favourite recital in a long time. Perhaps since 1968, when I saw Victoria de los Angeles -- whom this singer somewhat reminded me of -- at London's Festival Hall.

I’ll probably draw the two of clubs next time I take a lucky-dip into the Berlin concert barrel, but who cares? This time I got the gros lot.

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