Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder – “Songs on the Death of Children” – purvey an unnerving amalgam of bereftness and disbelief; the poems had been written by Friedrich Ruckert in memory of two children who had died of scarlet fever, and Mahler’s exquisite settings eerily prefigured the premature death of his own first-born child.
These songs make great demands on a singer; simplicity is the keynote, with every phrase needing the most delicate shading.
Given the requisite artistry, the big, burnished baritone of Dmitri Hvorostovsky might have made a fine instrument for this purpose, but of that artistry there was no trace. Each song was delivered fortissimo, and every emotional cue in the score was wilfully ignored; there seemed no connection whatever between singer and text.
The best one can say about the rest of this recital is that it was efficient. Choosing five rarely performed songs by Glinka, three by Strauss, and six by Rimsky-Korsakov, Hvorostovsky applied his clarion sound with sustained power, but the overall effect was monochrome. No matter: the fans packing the hall cheered him to the rafters, and will doubtless come back for more.
Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Ivari Ilja Wigmore Hall, LondonReuse content