Die Schöne Müllerin is a work which demands a closer collaboration between singer and pianist than perhaps any other in the song repertoire, and is most successful when both share the same interpretative style and are at the same level: on this occasion, whilst the singing was forthright, honest and often dramatic it did not share the pianist’s poetic vision. It’s possible that Allan Clayton may have taken on this challenging work a bit too soon.
‘Danksagung an den Bach’ provided a good example of both styles: as it had been in moments such as ‘Sie tanzen’ in the first song, Paul Lewis’ playing rippled and flowed like a glinting stream, while Clayton gave earnest emphasis to ‘immer’ and ‘Herze’ yet did not quite suggest the right mood for the whole song. In ‘Der Neugierige’ he found his legato line in the final stanza, and although ‘Morgengruss’ lost a few consonants here and there it was affectingly sung. Lewis’ playing of the lilting interludes between the stanzas of the latter was beautiful in its quiet intimacy.
The lute-inspired vorspiel of ‘Pause’ and the headlong dash of the introduction to ‘Mit dem grünen Lautenbande’ were superbly done, the former a model of legato playing and the latter ideally insouciant. Although Clayton has a tendency to over-use his head voice at certain times, he can certainly let rip when the need arises, and ‘Eifersucht und Stolz’ had a confident ring to it, with the right amount of bravado.
In ‘Trockne Blumen’ the two seemed to be much closer in style, the numbed minor chords of the piano and the despair of ‘Ach, Tränen machen /Nicht Maiengrun’ equally moving, and the final song showed that if this is not as yet the perfect partnership, Lewis and Clayton achieved a sense of unity in the closing parts of the cycle.
The concert was very well attended, with only a few empty seats, and it was part of the Wigmore’s very laudable scheme for under-35s, which enables those so fortunate to buy tickets for the astonishing price of £5. Forthcoming concerts in the scheme include Classical Opera with Allan Clayton performing Handel arias on May 6th, Werner Gura and Christoph Berner with a Schubert recital on May 10th, Henk Neven and Imogen Cooper in Mendelssohn, Schumann and Mahler on May 29th, and Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau performing Wolf, Brahms and Schumann on June 7th.
Further details of Wigmore Hall concerts can be found at wigmore-hall.org.uk.