Classical duo, Bostridge and Drake, illuminate the darker corners of life during Snape Proms concert

Tenor Ian Bostridge at the Snape Proms

Tenor Ian Bostridge at the Snape Proms

Review: Ian Bostridge & Julius Drake, Snape Proms, Snape Maltings Concert Hall, August 20

This was a serious evening of songs largely devoted to expressing some of the darker corners of human experience. And who better to deliver it than tenor Ian Bostridge and pianist Julius Drake? Not, perhaps, since the era of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore two generations ago has there been a more celebrated and successful partnership in this genre.

Their recital opened with six songs by Schubert from the years 1821-23. Greisengesang, an extended and sober composition about aging, moves effectively between major and minor and both performers elegantly captured the shifting moods. Du bist di Ruh is one of the composer's most popular works and deservedly so, its peaceful character exquisitely captured by Bostridge and with pianism of the greatest delicacy from Drake. Perhaps the most arresting song was the relatively short Dass sie hier gewesen whose equivocal and uncertain atmosphere suggested a later era.

Hans Werner Henze first heard Bostridge and Drake performing his music at Snape in 1996 and he later composed a substantial song cycle for them. Casarion, with words by the composer, is a meditative piece with some striking accompaniment, the sharp, crystalline sounds echoing the coastal and oceanic setting. The vocal line, sometime sinuous then declamatory, compels attention and the performance exuded authority. Des Paradies has an intense other-worldliness; neither piece is easy listening but it was fifteen minutes of compelling and rewarding music making.

Although Mahler is usually regarded as a composer of symphonies, his songs are an important and generally successful part of his output. Revelge (Reveille) from Das Knaben Wunderhorn is one of his most expansive and Drake articulated the repeated military fanfares with pinpoint precision and superbly controlled crescendo. The heart-rending song The Drummer Boy was just that, every ounce of anguish drawn and delivered.

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A gentler note was struck in Ich atmet from the Ruckert Lieder, both performers elegant and easy in the flowing lines. However, the closing Ich bin der Welt surpassed everything with Bostridge capturing the inward intensity beautifully and Drake drawing the music to a superbly controlled conclusion. An evening of the highest calibre.

Gareth Jones

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