Alice Coote/Julius Drake, Wigmore Hall, London

Wigmore Hall, London

Few lieder performers are so obviously committed to their material as Alice Coote. Each song in her Wigmore recital, devoted largely to Mahler and Schubert, was presented as much physically as vocally, with the mezzo's stance and bearing included in her total interpretative package. She acted them as if they were miniature monodramas, while the two characters involved in several items - the mother and the starving child in Mahler's Das Irdische Leben, or the perversely gothic dialogue in Schubert's Der Zwerg between the murderous dwarf and the queen who accepts his right to strangle her - were vividly realised.

Throughout, Coote used the varied resources of her wide-ranging mezzo to intelligent effect. She supplied plenty of textual nuance and was clearly aware why this particular note was a crotchet, that one a quaver. Such praiseworthy attention to detail, however, led her astray when her overemphasis on a specific note or word caused her to sacrifice her legato line for the sake of momentary effect.

Ironically, ignoring such a fundamental vocal tenet tended to weaken her ability to achieve the very impact she was striving for. Such faults were few and far between, but they were faults none the less. Though diverse, her two big groups - four early Mahler songs plus Das Irdische Leben and Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen in the first half, followed by 13 Schubert titles in the second - did not make for a particularly coherent programme. Mahler's piano versions of several of his songs are awkward and ineffective compared with the orchestral versions he clearly envisaged from the start, and not even Julius Drake's persuasive pianism could make them sound otherwise. Elsewhere he was the perfect keyboard partner in a fascinating if occasionally flawed venture.

Contributor

George Hall

The GuardianTramp

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