Review: SONG RECITALS Gundula Janowitz St John's, London Ian Bostridge QEH, London

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Gundula Janowitz was one of the most lustrous sopranos brought forward by the late Herbert von Karajan. Her Schubert recital at St John's on Thursday started in a mood of rapt calm, with five songs apostrophising the morning, the spring and the evening. Not an easy beginning, nor quite successfully sustained. Though the programme clearly suggested applause should come at the end, the large, enthusiastic audience disrupted the flow by clapping each song.

Janowitz has always had a distinctive reediness, an edge to her sumptuous tone. Here, it seemed like a slight rattle inhibiting a smooth line. She did not sound comfortable until Das Madchen, with its more decisively angular melody, and then she really came alight in the horror of Der Tod und das Madchen, thinning her sound to simulate the spectre of death in the second verse.

Without a pause, she continued with the powerfully accumulative Schwestergruss, infusing it with a good deal more intensity than her pianist, Charles Spencer, a rather bland performer throughout the evening.

Vocally, things didn't go more easily in Part 2, though Janowitz sounded quite crisp and girlish in Fischerweise, in which a girl hooks the fisherman - or will, if he's not careful. Her grand solemnity in Der Konig in Thule, as if its simple form had been cast in bronze, was something to enjoy, and she delivered the full works in Gretchen am Spinnrade, in which Charles Spencer's pedestrian accompaniment at least had a dramatic point. Overall, though, the evening was heavy going, partly because Janowitz had chosen a good many songs no longer suited to her. Her voice can certainly still convey character in varied colours, but it achieves calm simplicity with great difficulty.

Only five years after he was taken up by the Young Concert Artists Trust, the tenor Ian Bostridge gave a benefit recital for the trust at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Monday. It was packed, for Bostridge has become a celebrity in a very short time. With the pianist Julius Drake, he performed Schubert's Schwanengesang and three additional songs.

Bostridge is a light lyric tenor whose character is a gentle sweetness, well suited to Die Sterne, one of the additional songs, but not really able to convey the strain or struggle in Der Atlas. He looked rather casual, too, draping himself on the piano lid, or sinking at the knees as if he would rather languish on the floor than stand upright. He sang very nicely, gracefully, smoothly, but left us to provide the touches of bitterness at the end of Ihr Bild and Am Meer, although he was more expressive, in a muted way, in Der Doppelganger.

When, in Fruhlingssehnsucht and Abschied, he mustered the energy to move about the platform - rather an unusual thing for a Lieder singer - his bodily gestures seemed intended to compensate for his slight, conversational vocal delivery. Drake was very kind to him, although their combined cooing was rudely disturbed by a squeaky pedal.

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