Aldeburgh Festival: Simon Keenlyside

For the first half of their Sunday afternoon recital Simon Keenlyside and Malcolm Martineau served up a serious diet of Pfizner, Schoenberg and Mahler. Pfizner, probably best known today for his opera Palestrina, wrote in a fairly conservative idiom and the song Zweifelnde Liebe, about unrequited love, showed a tantalising glimpse of a relatively unknown composer - perhaps we could have heard more?

Simon Keenlyside, Song Recital, Snape Maltings, June 10

For the first half of their Sunday afternoon recital Simon Keenlyside and Malcolm Martineau served up a serious diet of Pfizner, Schoenberg and Mahler.

Pfizner, probably best known today for his opera Palestrina, wrote in a fairly conservative idiom and the song Zweifelnde Liebe, about unrequited love, showed a tantalising glimpse of a relatively unknown composer - perhaps we could have heard more?

Schoenberg's first three opus numbers are all songs, opus 1 within the nineteenth century German tradition but as early as opus 2 there are clear signs of a new direction. Erwartung has interesting chordal movements while Warnung is a tense, compelling piece with an angry start. Both performers combined well to create a sharp, edgy atmosphere in the latter and Keenlyside produced a warm lyrical flow in Geubtes Herz.


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Mahler's songs are of a consistently high quality and there were many delights in this section. Martineau's piano accompaniment was a delight in itself and he gave full exposure to Mahler's rich invention such as the buzzing bees in Blicke mir nicht.

Keenlyside found a sombre desolation in Um mitternacht and a secure emotional control in the yearning Ich bin der Welt.

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The second half was given over to Schubert and an eclectic choice from this most inspired of lieder composers. In an almost unbroken stream of pleasure I might pick out the piano imitating a guitar in Der Wanderer and the blazing start to Prometheus.

Or the singer's magical movement into happier mode in Blondel and his unalloyed pleasure in Dass sie hier. But, to be honest, two such distinguished musicians in Schubert can hardly go wrong - and they didn't.

Gareth Jones

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