Your experience may vary widely, but I think English music audiences on
the whole are rather delightful. That was certainly the case Saturday
evening in Wigmore Hall, when Christopher Maltman gave a recital, to be
recorded live, and the request went out for coughs "to be held until the
music stops." Lo, they were!
The chief cough-er, by the way, was Maltman himself, clearing his throat
and all nasal passages vigorously between songs, but indeed holding back
as long as the music was on. And what music it was!
The baritone with the big, warm, personable, mellifluous voice set
Wiggie on its ear, supported simply, beautifully, elegantly by Julius
Drake, one of the least intrusive pianists around. However excellent
Maltman may be, an exciting thing about him is that clearly he is still
a work in progress, with places to go.
For example, the exciting opening selection of four songs by Peter Warlock
(a.k.a. Philip Heseltine) was marvelous, with a diction making the text
unnecessary (Wigmore's practice of leaving the lights on be praised
nevertheless), but "perfection" eluded the singer in not trusting the
hall's sensational acoustics, oversinging louder passages unnecessarily
and rather counterproductively.
"The Singer," "Late Summer," "The fox" (what a strong, bitter song
that is!), and "Captain Stratton's Fancy" went marching by, gloriously
articulated, with shaded, nuanced high notes - and yet Maltman's exemplary
diction suffered when he needlessly increased the volume instead of
broadening the sound. However dramatic delivery of the final passage
was - "You will not call / I shall not stir / When the fangs fall / From
the brown fur" - the unwise din of the forte diminished the text's
essential clarity. My bet is on Maltman fixing that problem very soon,
allowing objection-free enjoyment of his exceptional talent.
The singer's (extra-musical) clearing of the throat became even more
marked during a Debussy cycle, but did not interfere with the delbivery.
"Romance," "Les cloches" (again, too loud at times), and "Mandolin" set
up an even great set, by Henri Duparc - Maltman's voice floating georgeosly
in "L'Invitation au voyage," with affecting simplicity in "Le manoir de
Rosemunde" (one loud passage interfering) and "La vague et la cloche,"
but then - glory be! - the finale of "Phidyle" came in "big" without
Schubert and Wolf constituted the second half of the recital, singer and
audience holding coughs back well, Of the Schuberts, the two "Wandrers
Nachtlied" were the most memorable; Wolf highlights included an appealing
performance of "An die Geliebte" and a riotous one of "Der Rattenfanger."
The live CD should be published soon - when you listen to it, please
marvel at my contribution of being ever so quiet during the performance.
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