A rare, delightful Lieder recital from two seasoned musicians at St Andrew’s

A recital of favourite Lieder by Schubert and Brahms

Roger Wilson (baritone) and Martin Ryman (piano)

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 18 September 2013, 12.15pm

Here were two seasoned musicians, in contrast to the many recitals at St. Andrew’s from emerging performers.  It was a delight to hear lieder; in Wellington we all too seldom have an opportunity.

The two opening Schubert items were well-known: “Der Wanderer an den Mond” and “Auf dem Wasser zu singen”.  It was a delight to have both German words and translations printed; even though Roger Wilson’s German pronunciation is impeccable and his projection of the words first-class, it underlined the fact that the meanings of the songs and the extent of the composer’s brilliant word-setting cannot be fully appreciated unless the hearers understand the words’ sense.

There was some slight variability in intonation in these songs and elsewhere, and also the odd occasion, particularly in a couple of songs, where the performers were not quite in synch. Nevertheless, it was great to hear these wonderful songs
live.  “Ganymed” is less well known; as a longer song, it allowed for more development and expressiveness, which it received.  Again, there were clear words, and caressing of beautiful phrases.

A break for the singer was provided by Mendelssohn’s: Song Without Words, Op.19 no.1. The flowing quality of this piece echoed that of the songs.  Ryman played with finesse in this acoustic,
which is sometimes difficult for the piano.

Next came “Der Wanderer”, which was performed with considerable sensitivity to the words – a feeling of isolation was the pre-eminent mood.  Schubert’s superlative setting of poetry was
most notable here, but also in the following “Fischerweise”, a more joyful song.  In the first verse, the piano was a little too loud for the light tone Roger Wilson adopted.

We turned now to Brahms. “Wir melodien zieht es mir” immediately demonstrated the difference of this composer’s writing from that of Schubert.  The breadth of melodies and wider expressive scope distinguishes Brahms from the more intimate songs of Schubert that we had heard so far.  The setting of “Sapphische Ode” was perhaps a little low for Wilson’s voice.  Though sung with tenderness, we couldn’t get its full impact when the lowest notes could not be fully delivered.

Another piano solo was Brahms’s Intermezzo in A Op.118 no.2. Well-loved indeed, as the programme note stated – I heard it played on Radio New Zealand Concert only the previous night – it was given a fine interpretation, bringing out its nostalgic quality, the pianist caressing the piano to reveal beautiful sounds.

Schubert’s “Prometheus”, setting words by Goethe, is a ‘dramatic monologue’ with various sections, each of a different character, rather than a lied.  It has a grandiose opening, and depicts Prometheus’s defiance against Zeus.  The truculence of the words in many of the verses was eminently portrayed in the music, and in the performance; quite unlike most Schubert songs.

The recital ended with the delightful “Die Taubenpost”.  As Schubert’s last song, its travelling theme has perhaps additional significance.  The gorgeous accompaniment, with its continuous momentum, was impeccably played.  The song made a lovely ending to the concert.


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