Anne Sofie von Otter/Bengt Forsberg - Wigmore Hall, 13 June 2007
Yes, this pic was taken at Finland's Kuhmo Festival, but Anne Sofie von Otter brazenly sported the same dress again for tonight's Wigmore Hall gig - and she didn't even frockswap at half time. Not to mention accessorising with the same skulking bespectacled pianist.
Neither did she pander to instant gratification with celebrity repertoire - instead her programme ranged from the underexposed to the unfamiliar.
A group of charming nature-themed songs by Agathe Backer Grøndahl set the scene for a mostly light-hearted all-Scandi first half, the highlight of which was Grieg's limpid Zur Rosenzeit. Anne Sofie was in marvellous voice, settling in instantly, her full silvered tone effortless and even throughout her range. Her voice is not enormous, and the piano was sensibly on half stick, but she projected more than adequately through the compact Wigmore Hall. Her physical ease complemented her unmannered delivery, and she moved freely round the stage, a welcome change from the stand and deliver performances more usually seen at the Wigmore.
Although she used a music stand throughout, she seemed barely to refer to it, one reason perhaps why she managed to re-secks a couple of German nouns and skip a whole verse of her last number, though I'm not sure she or indeed most of the audience noticed any slips.
For the second half, Brahms and Debussy groupings were given appropriately grave attention before Anne Sofie cut loose and had some fun with the six songs of Offenbach's recently-rediscovered Les voix mystérieuses. These were totally new to me, and are worth the exposure simply for the exquisitely melodic settings of choice texts, but the underdeveloped musical ideas and pedestrian accompaniment wouldn't I think last many listens. They were leavened by interspersing with brief numbers from Alkan's Esquisses played by Bengt Forsberg alone. These aren't as virtuosic nor ultimately quite as interesting (on first hearing anyway) as some of Alkan's other work, but definitely deserve a listen. Forsberg also covered Anne Sofie's mid-act tea breaks alone - his first half Sibelius was unremarkable, but the extraordinary Chabrier Impromptu in C that split the second half is worth revisiting.
The only false note in the evening was struck by the last of several encore numbers - Paul McCartney's Blackbird, which needs a looser approach than could be supplied by her high threadcount delivery, more suited to the preceding Kommt Seelen dieser Tag.
Anne Sofie will be performing Berlioz's Les Nuits d'Été at the Proms on 29 July - on this showing, it should be unmissable.
Photos: A Tulima