In her Wigmore recital last week with the distinguished American accompanist Irwin Gage, she was surprisingly effective in Debussy's Chansons de Bilitis, scaling down the voice to capture a mood of frozen contemplation, all the more effective for being delicately understated. She struck a similarly fine, reticent balance with Gage's mellifluous playing in Rachmaninov's On the death of a linnet.
Gage seemed less comfortable in Schumann's Dichterliebe, where his efforts to keep the character intimate and confidential generated undue tension. The cycle is usually sung by a man; Kallisch struck a plausibly 'manly' attitude even in the bitter defiance of 'Ich grolle nicht', where Gage began by underplaying his throbbing accompaniment, perhaps so as not to bully the singer, but also thereby building up the whole song gradually to the denunciation of its final line. This was typical of an evening of refined and thoughtful music-making.
Leon McCawley was many people's favourite to win last year's Leeds Piano Competition; in fact, he came second. Which wasn't bad, since he also won the Vienna Beethoven Competition. It's easy to see why, for the best thing in his Wigmore recital last Thursday was a magnificent account of the Op 111 Sonata - sage and powerful in the first movement, simple and sublime in the second, with strong, fully committed fingerwork throughout and no trace of self-consciousness.
McCawley chose to play the Wigmore's Bosendorfer, which meant less glitter but also less boominess than he would have got from their Steinway. Two short Scriabin pieces, Desir and Caresse dansee, fulfilled all the promise of their titles as whispered expressions of languorous sensuality, but in the C sharp minor Etude, Op 42, McCawley was disappointingly prosaic, and far from the 'breathless' quality the composer asked for. Still, the range of styles he encompassed, from balletic poise in Scarlatti to bravura in Liszt, showed real authority, and would have been impressive in a pianist of any age, let alone one of only 20.
The American soprano Barbara Bonney has the gift of seeming much younger than she is. Which is no backhanded compliment when it comes to Leonard Bernstein's I Hate Music] - described as 'five kid songs'. In her Wigmore recital on Tuesday she had no difficulty in representing their deadpan innocence, and only the occasional finely honed high note showed the cultivated artist as opposed to the natural singer. Yet when she sang a line like 'Heigh ho, how I do love thee]' in Dominick Argento's Six Elizabethan Songs, it was hard to believe she meant it. The sheer sound was always lovely, but her articulation of words was natural to the point of casual and often had me checking the programme to see what she was actually singing.
Bonney covered a wide range of American song, from the hothouse luxuriance of Charles Griffes to The Sound of Music. Yet she plumbed no greater depths than Samuel Barber's Hermit Songs, and sang popular numbers more blandly than most popular vocalists. If Judy Garland made 'Over the Rainbow' a metaphor of incurable heartache, Bonney took it entirely at face value.Reuse content