Anne Sofie von Otter/Bengt Forsberg/Pekka Kuusisto - Queen Elizabeth Hall, 27 October 2007
I might have got more out of this Korngold-special evening if the Southbank Centre had managed to print enough programmes to go round (no excuse for it, the hall was only half full). Not something I'd usually moan about, but with mostly obscure work on offer, it would have helped a lot.
But at least pianist Bengt Forsberg provided a useful bit of introduction to Anne Sofie von Otter's opening songs. A selection from Korngold's contemporaries, bookended with a couple from his child prodigy period, they included Karg-Elert's take on Rückert's Du Bist die Ruh (inevitably not a patch on Schubert) and Sommertage from Berg's Sieben frühe Lieder.
Anne Sofie was elegant in a black velvet top with floor-sweeping burgundy taffeta skirt - shoes invisible - fluffy bunny slippers perhaps? Her polished silvery tone certainly sounded comfortable and assured, though with a tentative edge to her high notes that suggested she was saving herself for something that never came.
Then it was the turn of Bengt Forsberg and Pekka Kuusisto (a pixie Nigel Kennedy in a sparkly-sleeved shirt) to tackle Korngold's Violin Sonata. This failed to grab me until the final movement, a set of variations on one of the songs Anne Sofie von Otter had sung earlier. Kuusisto was relaxed to the point of nonchalance, and some bowing and intonation errors suggested he wasn't 100% focussed.
After the interval came more Korngold songs, some of them Shakespeare settings. Korngold's folksy cadences flavour these quite differently from the German songs. Anne Sofie von Otter popped a few estuary vowels on top as she played to her comedic strengths in the last one, For the Rain it raineth every Day - or the Rhine it Rhineth as she had it.
In between the songs came another violin/piano piece, a suite from Korngold's incidental music for Much Ado About Nothing. And, almost upstaging teh Otter, one of the highlights of the night, Bengt Forsberg's storming Interlude from Das Wunder der Heliane.
Otter fought back, scorching through her intoxicating closer, Glück, das mir verblieb (Marietta's song) from Die tote Stadt. It's one of her specialities (scroll down for a vid of a 2000 performance), and it held the whole hall gripped.
Maybe too much was jammed into the two and half hour programme, but it was an intriguing glimpse of this underexposed composer.
Anne Sofie von Otter performs Glück, das mir verblieb live at the Théâtre Musical De Paris - Châtelet in 2000: