Sandrine Piau / Roger Vignoles - Wigmore Hall, 11 April 2012
Sandrine Piau’s baroque credentials are longstanding and indisputable. She’s on shakier ground with mélodies and Lieder if this recital was anything to go by. Her default mode is an exquisite pearly-toned and almost instrumental sound, perfect for rippling through that tricky 18th century coloratura. Art song requires more colours and more variety if the words are to communicate. Piau was able to darken her tone to some extent, but at the price of woolly vibrato, questionable pitching and pressure at volume. Shockingly opaque diction (worse, surprisingly, in French than German) didn’t help.
The high notes and soaring lines of Strauss’s Mädchenblumen suite found Piau at her exquisite white-toned best. A trio of Liszt songs also came over well, thanks not least to Roger Vignoles’ self-effacing accompaniment, though the operatic Die Loreley requires a singer of more melodramatic bent. Piau’s vocal mannerisms and gymnastic abilities sat well with Poulenc’s cock-eyed humour, less so with Chausson, Faure and Debussy, where a special kind of careless charm is all.
Incidentally, what has happened to the Wigmore audience? Barely a cough interrupted the music. Even a few gaps between songs passed in silence. Was Piau really that spellbinding - or are all those pre-show announcements finally sinking in?
Fauré Le papillon et la fleur Au bord de l’eau Après un rêve Le secret Les berceaux
Liszt Der Fischerknabe Oh! quand je dors Die Loreley
Chausson Amour d’antan Dans la forêt du charme et de l’enchantement Les heures Les papillons
Debussy Ariettes oubliées
Zemlinsky Liebe und Frühling Das Rosenband Frühlingslied
Poulenc Deux poèmes de Guillaume Apollinaire Deux poèmes de Louis Aragon
Encore: Fauré Clair de lune