Superb, well-attended recital of rare Lieder at St Andrew’s

Brahms: Zigeunerlieder (Gypsy Songs) Op.103
Schumann: Spanisches Liederspiel (Spanish Songs) Op.74

Lesley Graham (soprano), Linden Loader (mezzo-soprano), Richard Greager(tenor), Roger Wilson (bass), Mark Dorrell (piano)

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 13 June 2012, 12.15pm

The large audience could consider itself fortunate in having these singers of professional standing performing at a free lunch-hour concert.  Obviously the singers enjoy singing this ensemble repertoire, so seldom heard, and equally obviously, put a lot of work into it.  Such was the popularity of this concert, the pile of printed programmes ran out.

In essence, both sets of songs comprised romantic love-songs, but in differing moods.  Brahms’s songs were German translations from Hungarian poems by Hugo Conrat, and are more often sung in solo format, but we were informed by the programme notes that the vocal quartet version was written first.

The songs involved much word-painting, well-observed by the singers, and by Mark Dorrell’s immaculate accompaniments, which interpreted the buoyant feelings of the songs as joyously or soulfully as did the words of the singers, which were marked by unified pronunciation and projection of the words as well as by the quality of the sound.

The songs were delightful, though quite stretching in their vocal range.  However, these performers had them well under their belts.

The second-last song of the eight, ‘Kommt dir manchmal in den Sinn’ was a regretful song, especially solemn in the solo passages for tenor.

Schumann’s songs were German translations by Emanuel Geibel, from Spanish poems.  These songs were for a succession of different combinations of voices.

The first titled ‘Erste Begugnung’ or ‘First Meeting’ was for soprano and alto. (It was good to have German, Spanish and English versions of the titles in the printed programme.) It is always en enjoyable experience to hear Lesley Graham and Linden Loader sing duets; their voices match and blend amazingly well, and adorned this beautiful song about plucking flowers from a rose-bush.

The next song was for tenor and bass.  These two voices do not have the same matching quality, but it was a gorgeous rendition of ‘Intermezzo’, nevertheless.

‘Love’s Sorrow’ followed, for the two female voices.  It was sung very expressively; one felt swept into the touching sorrow conveyed by the singers.

‘In der Nacht’ for soprano and tenor featured a beautiful opening from Lesley Graham.  When the tenor entered, he carried on the mood and tone perfectly.  This was a quiet song, but carried well.

‘The secret is out’ was a complete change of mood – back to something like the joyful, dancing rhythms of the Brahms songs.  All four singers were in utter unanimity.  And all four are teachers of singing; their students are fortunate indeed.  The poem had the interesting words “Love, money and sorrow are, I think, the most difficult to conceal… the cheeks reveal what lies secretly in the heart.”

‘Melancholy’, a solo for Linden Loader, was heartfelt and beautifully expressed.

A short but appealing tenor solo, ‘Confession’, followed.  Along with the other songs, this was typical Romantic era stuff, concerned with longing, and unrequited or unfulfilled love.

‘Botschaft’, or ‘Message’ was next, sung by the two women.  This song was more complex musically, with the parts crossing and diverging.  It was a charming expression of the delight of flowers.

A hearty final number, ‘I am loved’, had all four voices expatiating on the evil tongues that whisper about the love the writer experiences.  The wicked tongues could be heard in the marvellous accompaniment of this characterful song, as well as in the words.  The ending was quite superb.

Illustrations and a humorous biographical note (obviously by Roger Wilson) set a nice touch to the printed programme.

What ensemble these singers have!  Perfect timing, intonation, unanimity and attractive, expressive voices.  It is a crying shame that Radio New Zealand Concert no longer do studio broadcasts; this programme deserved to be heard by a wider audience.


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