Viardot And Friends, Wigmore Hall, London
Friday 03 March 2006
It was meant to be the evocation of a star from 19th-century Paris. Pauline Viardot, the Spanish-born mezzo-soprano, inspired the city's composers with her voice, and the writer Ivan Turgenev with her soul and whatever else it took to establish a ménage à trois alongside her accommodating husband. You can read histories of the period and scarcely be aware of her prowess as a composer. This concert aimed to set the record straight.
Such was the cast involved that it almost ended up as a celebration of several stars of today - the American mezzo Frederica von Stade,soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci, baritone Vladimir Chernov and the superbly responsive pianist David Harper. The French actress Fanny Ardant delivered a linking script by Georgia Smith with a grandly enthused, erratic and infectious flair.
It was a good-hearted occasion - admiring, irreverent and full of relish. Viardot's songs are steeped in her experience as a singer and linguist. They start from an exceptional, intimate knowledge of the sounds of each language that she set. At first the effect is like a musicianly chameleon. A French song sounds like early Fauré, a Russian one like Tchaikovsky, and two of the finest, in German, hark back in their harmonies and surging melodies to Schumann.
The underlying, consistent musical personality came out most clearly in the simplest songs such as "Ici-bas tous les lilas meurent". Some bolder numbers such as the setting of Pushkin's "Buria" were expressively undercooked, but Viardot rose to the pride and scorn of Hermione's scena from Andromache, pick of the evening's operatic excerpts.
You could scarcely have found more positive advocates. Von Stade is a nuanced but unfussy singer of music whose proponents can easily make it precious. Antonacci was forthright and stylish in Spanish and Italian, and Chernov found sensitivities that Harper was able to pick up in some ravishing piano postludes. The event was complete and satisfying enough without any of the accepted great works of its time - a tribute to the prevailing high quality of an often underestimated musical milieu.
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 2 Man to be beheaded in Saudi Arabia after ripping up a Koran and hitting it with his shoe
- 3 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 4 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 5 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
Skrillex and Diplo's 24-hour DJ set shut down by police after 18 hours
Alien 5: Sigourney Weaver will reprise Ripley role in new movie, says director Neill Blomkamp
Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl: First look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Drake matches The Beatles' record with 14 singles in top 100 chart at the same time
Aidan Turner interview: 'being a sex symbol is a little awkward'
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'