Classical Review: Mozart, but not as we know him

Felicity Lott, Ann Murray, Richard Jackson & Graham Johnson Wigmore Hall

"If Fiordiligi and Dorabella had been Lieder singers ..." runs the supposition on which Graham Johnson has based his new programme for Felicity Lott, Ann Murray, Richard Jackson, and himself at the piano. Unveiled at the Wigmore Hall on Friday evening, it is based broadly on the situation in Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. Two sisters are tested for fidelity by their lovers, who pretend to go to war, then disguise themselves and seduce the girls, before revealing their true identities for a final reconciliation, everyone a bit wiser. If the premise is a touch oxymoronic - for the Lied is really a 19th century form - there is nothing very abstruse in the way it is worked out. The manipulative Don Alfonso keeps popping up not to sing but to speak, and there are musical extracts from Mozart's opera not involving the male lovers. Mozart apart, Johnson casts his net wide, taking in songs from Wolf s Italian and Spanish Songbooks, duets by Purcell, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Saint-Saens and Faure, as well as a few short, sharp shocks from the popular repertoire - some stylishly done by Lott and Murray in very passable American accents.

They are seasoned duettists, and the contrast between Lott's silvery, flowery warmth and the Murray's straighter, more incisive sound assists their blend as much as it defines their individuality. They complement each other. Murray has the sharper, more varied powers of characterisation, brought into play when she joined Lott on the repeat of "How can a little girl be good?", which she pointed up in a rude parlando. Murray's first go at Schubert's Singing Exercises, too, was hilariously rough, until she was told off by Johnson: "Pay attention to your diaphragm!" She could also be subtle, and deliberately undersang Wolf's "Ihr jungen Leute" as if she were genuinely concerned about her fragile lover going to war, not looking for laughs.

Richard Jackson had little singing to do until the second half, when he joined the women in Purcell's "No resistance is but vain", which, in Britten's realisation, they made rather a meal of. He also joined them in the trio, "Soave sia il vento" from Act One of Cosi, placed very effectively at the end of the programme, as a peaceful resolution. It's not exactly that in the opera, though it is a farewell, and so a perfect conclusion to a brisk and ingenious entertainment. Less expected, as an encore was a re-jigged version of Rossini's Cat Duet, as a flirtatious piece for Murray and Jackson, before Lott burst open the stage door to turn it into a three-way fight. If the humour was a bit broad, it was, after all, nearly Christmas.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Process Improvement Analyst (Testing)

    £40000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

    Service Delivery Manager - Derivatives, Support,

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Delivery Manager - (Derivatives, Support...

    Technical Account Manager - Java, FIX Protocol, FIX 5.0, C++

    £30000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Technical Account Manager - Java,...

    WPF .NET Developer

    £300 - £350 per day: Harrington Starr: WPF Analyst Programmer NET, WPF, C#, M...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform