MUSIC / Olaf Bar - Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
The precision required by the Lieder singer's art demands that technique subjugate emotion, and the stiffness of Olaf Bar's stage presence underlines the strain: any gesture which might suggest momentary abandon is quickly checked. Still, the voice is lovely, softer-grained and more supple than Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's. Bar's programme was a kind of trip through the history of the German Lied, via the familiar points from Mozart through Beethoven, Brahms and Wolf to Strauss. There were signs of a willingness to relax for expressive effect - an ecstatic sigh at the climax of Mozart's 'An Chloe', a conversational turn of phrase in Beethoven's 'Adelade'; and Bar makes use of a broader vibrato than some might like. The pervading tone was of melancholy - the baritone's eternal sadness, perhaps, at not having the tenor's open-hearted exuberance. A few moments of vocal imprecision failed to dampen the audience's enthusiasm, and Bar and his accompanist, Geoffrey Parsons, returned for three encores. Parsons, as ever, was exemplary, his self-effacing technique providing exact support and rhythmic vitality. Has any pianist in history ever been so closely associated with so many great voices?