A ravishing song cycle

Die Schone Mullerin, Goerne/Aimard, Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings, June 18

One of the most celebrated of song-cycles interpreted by Matthias Goerne and Pierre-Laurent Aimard, two of the most distinguished performers in their fields was always likely to attract a full house and so it proved at Snape on Saturday. Muller and Schuberts’ saga of unreturned and ultimately tragic love needs no introduction, its unique qualities never failing to move and inspire.

The cycle began in optimistic vein (is there a better opening number than Das Wandern?), Aimard lightly fluent and Goerne fresh and confident in voice. In the sixth song, Der Neugierige, Matthias gave the simple question to the brook ‘Does she love me? just the right note of quiet desperation.

That a successful performance of this music requires a high level of interaction between performers goes without saying but there were times when the singer seemed over focussed towards the pianist and a degree of audience contact was lost.

The performances of the later songs were consistently outstanding, the jealousy of Eifersucht und Stolz and the frustration of Die Bose Farbe acutely conveyed and Aimard unsettlingly persistent in the accompaniment to Die liebe Farbe.

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The final songs were simply ravishing, carrying us into another world. Goerne exploited the range and timbre of his voice to full effect alongside well considered dramatic effects. It is arguable that over the performance as a whole some of his moves were more than strictly necessary and occasionally distracting but his vocal technique and musical insight shone through. Aimard was the most sympathetic and subtle of pianists, never too loud for the voice but ready and able to carry the musical argument when required. His handling of the repeated horn calls in the final song had an eloquent nobility.

The enthusiastic reception was fully merited.

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Gareth Jones

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