Simon Keenlyside: Songs by Schubert, Wolf, Fauré and Ravel

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COMPOSERS: Fauré and Ravel,Schubert,Wolf
LABELS: Wigmore Hall Live
WORKS: Songs by Schubert, Wolf, Fauré and Ravel
PERFORMER: Simon Keenlyside (baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: WHLive 0031

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Recorded live in October 2008, Simon Keenlyside’s recital with pianist Malcolm Martineau focuses on four composers central to the song tradition. The opening Schubert group demonstrates the baritone’s natural and unaffected delivery – an ability to hold words and notes together in one single gesture – and his finely tuned vocalism, founded on a lightly rounded but always expressive tone.

He doesn’t need to overemphasise – it’s all there. But that doesn’t preclude individual touches, as in the improvisatory freedom of ‘Verklärung’. The Wolf group is as distinguished, with the observant gravitas of ‘An die Geliebte’, the almost conversational approach to ‘Auf eine Christblume II’ and the rapt sense of ‘Gesang Weylas’.

He sounds equally at ease in the French half of the programme. Fauré’s ‘Aubade’ needs to go a shade faster to remain light on its feet, but ‘En sourdine’ flows beautifully, ‘Green’ is drowsily seductive and the light humour of ‘Le Papillon et la Fleur’, Fauré’s Op. 1 No. 1, is flawlessly conveyed in Martineau’s enchantingly lithe pianism.

Despite their virtuosity, there’s a lightness of touch, too, about both participants’ contributions to Ravel’s Histoires Naturelles cycle that makes them near ideal. George Hall

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