Alice Coote – review

Wigmore Hall, London

It is an extraordinary fact that Kathleen Ferrier, who was born 100 years ago and died in 1953 at the age of 41, remains one of the best loved as well as most admired of British singers. Alice Coote ended her celebratory Wigmore recital with a spoken tribute, rather than a series of encores; she had first encountered Ferrier's voice 30 years ago, and found the experience life-changing. Coote's programme, performed with the ever-supportive Graham Johnson as her accompanist, was made up of German Lieder – a genre of which Ferrier became a distinguished exponent. In the case of Gustav Mahler, Ferrier's advocacy of his music helped put it on the international map at a time when it was largely unfamiliar.

Coote is, of course, a very different singer from Ferrier, and there was no sense of her attempting to copy her predecessor's interpretations. She began with a mostly familiar Schubert group, her tone taking a while to come into focus but her artistry clear from the outset, keenly exploring her distinctive tonal palette for the exact quality needed for each phrase or line. Gretchen am Spinnrade felt genuinely troubled, its edginess renewed in the hard-won spiritual battle of Die Junge Nonne.

In Schumann's Frauenliebe und Leben, Coote continued her exploration of text and setting in an approach that was dramatically conceived; each song here, and in the Brahms group that opened the second half, felt like a miniature monodrama, intricately imagined and vividly recreated. Coote's voice had grown spacious and malleable, and she advanced Mahler's expressivity in a bold and at times visionary account of the Rückert Lieder, in which Johnson's playing was at its considerable best.

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George Hall

The GuardianTramp

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