Grieg • Schubert • Sibelius

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Edvard Grieg; Franz Schubert; Jean Sibelius
LABELS: Wigmore Hall Live
ALBUM TITLE: Grieg • Schubert • Sibelius
WORKS: Schubert: Suleika; Ganymed; Du bist die Ruh; The Shepherd on the rock, etc. Grieg: 6 songs, Op. 48; Sibelius Varen flyktar hastigt; Den forsta kyssen; Var det en drom? etc.
PERFORMER: Miah Persson (soprano), Roger Vignoles (piano), Richard Hosford (clarinet)

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Song recitals are demanding, both for the performers and, perhaps even more, for the audience. For two minutes a maiden stricken with grief at the infidelity of her beloved has to be conjured up by the singer and her accompanist, and empathised with by the listeners; and then a mischievous nun hilariously tells you how many secret lovers she has and, in the audience, you smile or, if you’re annoying, laugh. And so on, for over an hour. Exhausting.

Miah Persson is beautiful and so is her voice, so she starts with a big advantage. But that is only the start. Many of the finest recitalists haven’t had notably lovely voices. I did find, with eight songs by Schubert, six by Grieg, and five by Sibelius, that there was a danger of monotony, under-characterisation and reliance on sheer undeniable vocal beauty.

Roger Vignoles is an ideal accompanist, setting the mood with a few notes or chords; but sometimes when Persson sails in she sounds much as she did in the previous song. Schubert’s Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt can break your heart in three minutes, as it does under Elisabeth Schumann; here it is touching, no more, partly because Persson doesn’t make a lot of the words. Lovers of Gundula Janowitz should adore this recital; others may find that they
only want to listen to a part of it at
a sitting.

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Michael Tanner