David Daniels / Martin Katz - Wigmore Hall, 21 February 2010
Brahms Auf dem See, Ständchen, Nicht mehr zu dir zu gehen, Mein Mädel hat einen Rosenmund, O wüsst ich doch den Weg zurück Peri Gioite al canto mio Durante Danza, danza, fanciulla gentile Caccini Amarilli mia bella Frescobaldi Così mi disprezzate Hahn A Chloris, Quand je fus pris au pavillon, Chanson au bord de la fontaine, Paysage Handel Cara sposa from Rinaldo, Perfido! di a quell'empio tiranno from Radamisto Quilter Music, when soft voices die Vaughan Williams Linden Lea Elgar Where corals lie Howells King David Finzi It was a lover and his lass
Encores: Strauss Zueignung, Lotti Pur dicesti o bocca bella, Gounod L'absent
An hour of non-stop baroquery can render even the loveliest of countertenor voices yawnsome. So David Daniels deserves credit for the variety of his Wigmore Hall programme, which travelled from 16th century Florence to 20th century England via France and Germany, taking in his beloved Handel on the way.
That said, he was at his most effective in the earlier music. Arias from Rinaldo and Radamisto had all the dramatic flair of full-scale opera, where, despite any number of fine recitals, he's always at his best. His arie antiche seemed far more consequential than Joyce DiDonato's (partially overlapping) selection last month. The breathtaking coloratura of Danza, danza, fanciulla gentile was far more than display for its own sake, and the suspended line of Amarilli mia bella hovered in unearthly beauty.
Hahn's cod-Bach À Chloris was a predictably fine match for Daniels' baroque sensibilities. But the exquisite beauty of his voice equally accomodates the more perfumed end of Hahn's repertoire, like the rapturous Paysage, for which loveliness of tone is prerequisite.
An English song selection took in Quilter, Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Finzi and appropriately enough, Howells' King David, a tenderly drawn portrait of melancholy. Daniels' impressionistic delivery is a world away from fiercely inhabited subjectivity of Alice Coote's all-English programme last week (which sadly I didn't have time to write up), but it has its own charm even if it doesn't dig quite as deep.
The opening Brahms selection was less convincing. Daniels' romantic sensibilities, the warm tone and rich vibrato, suggest this repertoire is not out of his reach. But the way he physicalises notes more than words betrays an essentially musical, rather than verbal approach. He uses his voice like an instrument, communicating with carefully shaped and moulded tone. The very musicality of his singing in a way obstructs the text, which is foremost in these songs. Although his diction was near-faultless, the individual words themselves were sacrificed to the more abstract expressiveness of line and phrasing. Here as elsewhere, Martin Katz's choppy, fragmented phrasing seemed to work against Daniels' more lyrical tendencies.
An ecstatic reception (which began before he'd even sung a note) was rewarded with three encores, the most extraordinary of which was Zueignung - I'm still not sure whether it was brilliant or terrible.