Helena Juntunen / Eveliina Kytömäki - Wigmore Hall, 10 September 2012
While other venues continue to ignore the economic realities of recessionary Britain by raising ticket prices to the point where they end up having to give thousands of them away, Wigmore Hall is taking a different approach. This season's '10 for 10' scheme offers ten full length evening recitals by established artists at the bargain price of £10.
Coming up are the varied likes of Christianne Stotijn, Midori and the Arditti Quartet. But first on the list was the Finnish soprano Helena Juntunen, making her Wigmore debut with her regular accompanist Eveliina Kytömäki.
Despite the modest price and the shortage of competing concerts, there were quite a few empty seats. When the one right behind me was taken by a squirming toddler who immediately piped "I can't see anything", I foresaw an interrupted evening. But it turned out that even the restless child couldn't compete with a disinhibited adult a few seats away. The blind and mentally disabled man mostly listened quietly like everyone else. But every so often he started humming, singing and shouting along with Juntunen, to her obvious and understandable distress, and the annoyance of the usual thin-skinned shushers.
Unfortunately, Wigmore staff allowed the disruption to continue for a full ten songs before calling an early interval and persuading the man to leave - and that was only after Juntunen ground to a halt mid-song and walked off. It obviously wasn't an easy decision to compound this poor man's disadvantages by turfing him out for behaviour he probably can't control. But it had to be done. It's just a shame that for the sake of the other 400-odd customers, and particularly for the artists, that the Wigmore couldn't face up to the problem sooner. I hope a lesson has been learned.
As for Juntunen, it was immediately obvious that her ample voice and mobile, expressive features are more at home on the opera stage than the recital platform. I found her first half unmoving and theatrical, but have to credit her simply for getting through it in the circumstances. After the break, she found greater detail and more individual character in each song.
The piano, on full stick, was no match for her Mattila-on-steroids vocal power in her Strauss selection. But when she switched to a suitably smoky tone for Thomas Ades's jazzy Life Story, Eveliina Kytömäki's thundering keys overwhelmed both Juntunen and the tale she told. The clever punchline went for nothing as Kytömäki bludgeoned through the last few bars, leaving Juntunen to face a brief but embarrassing silence in place of the deserved laughter.
Trite but true to note that Juntunen's closing Sibelius set drew her best performance of the evening, with a sense of heartfelt engagement not always evident in her earlier selections. Then again, with a start like that, who could blame her?
Schumann Liebeslied Heiss mich nicht reden Herzeleid Er ist’s Aus den hebräischen Gesängen Singet nicht in Trauertönen Strauss Ach Lieb, ich muss nun scheiden Ein Obdach gegen Sturm und Regen Mein Herz ist stumm Schlechtes Wetter Malven Cäcilie Thomas Adès Life Story Sibelius Kaiutar Den första kyssen Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings möte Bollspelet vid Trianon Var det en dröm?