Insomnia: A Nocturnal Voyage in Song

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COMPOSERS: Mozart; Debussy; Liszt; Fauré; Warlock; Vaughan Williams; Schubert; Wolf
LABELS: Delphian
ALBUM TITLE: Insomnia: A Nocturnal Voyage in Song
WORKS: Mozart: Abendempflindung; Debussy: Nuit d’etoiles; Liszt: Oh! Quand je dors
PERFORMER: William Berger (baritone), Iain Burnside
CATALOGUE NO: DCD34116

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This ‘nocturnal voyage in song’ is William Berger’s solo debut on disc and, spaciously recorded in Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall, it had its birth in his recital at the 2011 Lucerne Festival. Berger’s grainy baritone is pleasing more than awe-inspiring: it can show weakness at the extremes of his register, and he is not yet perfectly and easefully idiomatic in his command of French and German. But he communicates with keen enthusiasm, and his word-lively Mozart Abendempfindung immediately draws the listener in to this artfully selected and ordered programme.

With Iain Burnside as accompanist, there are light-filled starry nights aplenty, from Debussy’s Nuit d’étoiles through to the evolving monotones of Warlock’s The Night, and on to Richard Rodney Bennett’s de la Mare setting, Dream-song, in which composer, singer and pianist all capture perfectly the archaic naivety of the verse, with its veiled melancholy.

Suddenly, Schubert’s Auf der Bruck appears, as out of a wild dream; followed by a song specially composed for Berger by the Hong Kong composer Raymond Yiu. Its landscape of a ‘wreck of perished dreams’ is contrasted with the ecstatic longing of Liszt’s Oh! quand je dors. And then comes awakening: in an intensely tranquil song from Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch, and on to a new and future dawn in an exquisitely accompanied performance of Richard Strauss’s ‘Morgen!

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Hilary Finch