Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Stotijn shines at the Wigmore Hall

Christianne Stotijn is back on good form again, with a very good recital at the Wigmore Hall on 18th October. Her confidence was thrown after Tamerlano at the Royal Opera House, when no-one could get their heads round a tyrant like Tamerlano being created by a womanly singer. In March her Wigmore Hall recital was a disappointment, but I'm delighted to say, she's bounced back.

Stotijn's voice is naturally warm and attractive, virtues which have made her a favourite with Bernard Haitink, for example. Fortunately, since March, she's been rethinking her technique, working on the centre of her voice so it's firmer and more assertive. She still has a tendency to rely on charm, which paid off in Gabriel Fauré's Cinq Mélodies "de Venise", where long lines flow langourously, like the mandolin in Mandoline. "Mystiques bacarolles, Romances sans paroles", where legato is more important than precise diction.

This was a well devised programme. For a change, Graham Johnson played solo Schumann's Intermezzo from Faschingsschwank aus Wien, continuing the gentle, good natured mood.  Sei frisch und fromm, und weider komm, goes the jaunty melody in Lied eines Schmeiden in the Schumann settings of Nikolas Lenau. Stotijn seemed invigorated. Nice, expressive depth in "aus dunkeln, tiefen Bronnen" (from the dark, deep well)  in Meine Rose. If the popular Die Sennin didn't quite come off,  Stotijn seemed to be saving herself for Requiem, not the choral Requiem op 148 but a more personal piano song. Stotijn's sensitive phrasing was dignnified and heartfelt. Schumann misjudged the date of Lenau's death, but his feelings were sincere.

Heartened, Stotijn seemed to relax more in the second part of the recital. Gone was the slight tightness in her delivery, replaced by more spontaneity. Ernest Chausson's Serres Chaudes evoke hothouse langour. But these are poems by Maeterlinck. Exotic perfumes hypnotise and lead to madness. Linger too long and you die. Stotijn cries out, breaking abruptly from the ennui. "Mon Dieu! Quand aurons-nous la pluie, et la neige, et la vent dans la serre!" Wonderful cycle, a French Wesendonck-Lieder.

Schumann's Aufträge op 77 no 5 (1850) with its lively pace brought out the best in Stotijn. Character songs give a singer a chance to think into "role", giving a bit more emotional space than intensely introspective material. Technique now fully absorbed, Stotijn could focus on expressiveness Nice, crisp enunciation.

Even livelier were the two Schumann Geibel Zigeunerliedchen from Lieder Album für die Jugend. The images here are murder, imprisonment, and treachery but the strophic form and bouncy piano part render the songs as genre pieces, rather than horror stories. Pairing them with Die Kartenlegerin (op 31 no 2) (Chamisso) was an excellent idea, for they continue the theme of "gypsy" exoticism but with a darker, more mysterious edge, which gives more emotional depth. While her mother sleeps, a girl steals a look at the cards, hoping to divine her future. Just as she gets excited, the girl sees an old crone. Is it her fate? No, it's mother who's woken up.  Humour, hope and despair, in the space of three minutes. Quite a test of a singer, and Stotijn succeeds.

photo credit : Marco Borggreve


Uncle Toby said...

It was the first time I had heard her in the flesh. I thought she was outstanding. What a shame about the half-empty hall. Are late Schumann and French song that unappealing to the Wigmore Hall crowd?

Doundou Tchil said...

i was surprised too, since iot was the less common Schumann and Chausson I really wanted to hear. Maybe other things on the same evening. She was an Oxford Lieder performer 6 years ago, so iof you get there, they have an interesting programme.