Alice Coote, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

Queen's Hall

The Queen's Hall lieder recitals have given us some of the finest performances of the festival, though it must be stated that their angst quota has been on the high side. The programme for Alice Coote's concert with pianist Julius Drake included Schumann on the messy consequences of having an affair with, er, a lion, and Mahler on graveyards, starvation and, finally, withdrawal from the world into a life of spiritual contemplation. Given that Coote's operatic performances have often revealed a brilliant flair for comedy, one rather hoped she might have lightened the mood a bit.

One also wished her recital had been better. There's no doubt about the suggestive, deliciously tangy beauty of her voice - the steady stream of sound she releases in Mahler's Urlicht and Um Mitternacht is ravishing. Yet she often fails to project the meaning of a song through its music, too frequently resorting to physical gestures.

Rolling eyes and terrified glances do not capture the horror of Schumann's Die Löwenbraut half as well as subtly shading the song's ballad-like contours might have done. She does achieve some declamatory intensity towards the end of Schumann's Frauenliebe und Leben, though earlier she aggravates the charge of sexism, often flung against the cycle, by portraying its heroine as ditsy and simpering. Coote can be an exciting operatic artist, no question, but she has yet to prove herself in lieder. A disappointment.

Contributor

Tim Ashley

The GuardianTramp

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