Simon Keenlyside / Malcolm Martineau - Wigmore Hall, 26 October 2008
Fauré Mandoline No. 1 from 'Cinq mélodies de Venise'; En sourdine; Green No. 3 from 'Cinq mélodies de Venise'; Notre amour; Fleur jetée; Spleen; Madrigal de Shylock; Aubade; Le papillon et la fleur Ravel Histoires naturelles Wolf Gesang Weylas; Heimweh; Auf eine Christblume II; Lied vom Winde Schubert An Silvia D. 891; Die Einsiedelei D393; Verklärung D59; Freiwilliges Versinken D700; Gruppe aus dem Tartarus, D583; Himmelsfunken D651; Ständchen D957; Die Sterne D939; Auf der Bruck D853
Encores: Wolf Der Knabe und das Immlein; An die Geliebte Poulenc Hôtel
This was the second of two identical recitals that Simon Keenlyside is committing to disc for the Wigmore Live CD series. And if the engineer can zap out the intrusive but ohso predictable coughing it should make one terrific recording.
New dad (congratulations!) Simon is like the Swiss Army knife of baritones - he can do just about anything. Well, except pluck your brows or pick stones out of ponies' hooves, but you have to pay extra for that.
At Wigmore Hall there was little trace of the physicality so central to Simon's operatic performances. Nattily turned out in a three-piece grey suit, he commanded the Wigmore stage by sheer force of presence, fingers locked over his chest. And he was in excellent form, even though his admirable insistence on performing in original keys meant he was stretched tissue-thin at the top.
The first half's Fauré, drawn from the less sticky end of the syrup pot, was sung with affection and feeling, and Ravel's quirky animal songs allowed room for characterisation. His diction was clear without being fussy, and his French mostly excellent. Only a tendency to nasalise vowels too early marked him out as English (a bit pedantic eh, but unless long vowels are sung open, only nasalising towards the very end of the note, it's a dead giveaway.) Malcolm Martineau was in perfect accord, locating as he so often does that tricky middle ground between anonymity and assertiveness.
Simon sang everything without a score, only a couple of lines in the second half's Wolf group challenging his memory. But the Schubert group which followed was the highlight of the evening for me, traversing from the sublime yearning of Ständchen to the operatic thunder of Auf der Bruck and everything in between. The encores continued on a high. The main programme had been beautifully sung, every note placed perfectly, but here in the pair of Wolf songs Simon let rip more, taking risks he perhaps hadn't dared earlier. It left me wanting more....the ideal way to end any recital.