CLASSICAL MUSIC William Lyne 30th Anniversary Concert, Wigmore Hall, London

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The Independent Culture
Why all the fuss about orchestras giving concert tickets away? Free tickets have long been one of the few perks of music students, and a good thing too. Once that was the way debutants got an audience at the Wigmore Hall, which was particularly associated with young hopefuls, who spent their parents' savings hiring the place. Under the management of William Lyne, things have changed, the hall's profile raised, with a lavish refurbishment two years ago, which opened up its basement to the public and provided a restaurant, new lavatories and a reception room. The programmes, too, have for some time been more consistently prestigious - for the "Wig" always attracted some big names - as well as more coherently planned, with several series running throughout the season, featuring particular composers or parts of the repertoire.

Thursday's concert was part of the Wigmore's song recital series, and celebrated Lyne's 30th anniversary in the job. Called "Director's Choice", the programme was arranged by the pianist Graham Johnson from a long list Lyne had given him. His taste is not for the frivolous, and the first 40-odd minutes were taken up by 10 Schubert songs, while the group that closed the evening was four of Hugo Wolf's Goethe songs.

The Schubert songs were sung, in rotation, by the soprano Felicity Lott, who opened with An die Musik, the baritone Manfred Gorne, who as a highly nuanced singer, had some of the more reflective songs, like Totengrabers Heimweh, and the tenor Ian Bostridge, who, by contrast, was refreshingly simple and appealing in Die Gotter Griechenlands. All three sang separate verses in Liebhaber in allen Gestalten, representing the possible variety of a lover's guises.

Britten's Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac followed, introducing the counter- tenor Robin Blaze, who blended effectively with Ian Bostridge as the voice of God and, in the dramatic exchanges of father and son, sounded almost like a natural extension of him.

After the interval, three of Mahler's Ruckert songs, sung by Manfred Gorne, drew cheers for the singer's sustained intensity and inwardness After which it was good to get a bit of Gallic grace and light, with Lott, in particular, shining in Faure's Les roses d'Ispahan and Chabrier's ebullient L'ile heureuse, which gave Johnson a brief burst of the limelight before each verse.

To the Three Wise Men in Wolf's Epiphanias, Johnson elected to add a fourth, so that all the singers were employed. But after Felicity Lott sang Lisa Lehmann's The Swing as an encore, and Manfred Gorne followed with Schubert's Der Musensohn, Johnson announced that Ian Bostridge had not been feeling well all evening, so begged to be excused. Gallant lad. William Lyne got a round of applause each time he walked down the aisle but resisted Johnson's offers to haul him up on to the stage.