Opera and Classical Reviews

Tynan / Burnside @ Wigmore Hall, London (online)

17 June 2020


Wigmore Hall’s live streamed recitals continue. Barry Creasy tuned in.

Ailish Tynan

Iain Burnside & Ailish Tynan

Ailish Tynan was to have begun singing Mimi in Grange Park’s La Bohème this week, but, sadly, the pandemic has scotched that; their loss was our gain, and her encore at Wednesday’s recital (with pianist Iain Burnside) was a beautifully nuanced performance of ‘Mi chiamano Mimi’ to remind us of what we were missing.

The rest was an intelligently crafted hour of Motherhood and Apfelkuchen that began with Grieg’s Op. 48 Six Songs. Between them, Tynan and Iain Burnside brought out all of Grieg’s skilful contrasts in the set, from the jolly serenading opening of ‘Gruß’ through the wan texture of ‘Dereinst, Gedanke mein’, the carefree trot of ‘Lauf der Welt’ to the inexorable crescendo that pervades ‘Ein Traum’, as the dream becomes reality. Particularly enjoyable was ‘Die verschwiegene Nachtigall’; Tynan’s voice has a glorious creamy liquidity to it, and her echoes, in the melody, of the call of the eponymous bird as outlined delicately by Burnside in the opening bars were perfection.

Ailish Tynan

Ailish Tynan

Four songs by Hugo Wolf provided yet more variety within the set. Tynan’s soft recitation of the text of ‘Blumengruss’ around which the fragile blossoms picked out by the piano fell, contrasted with the more sonorous chanting and dynamically squeezed notes in ‘Ganymed’. The dainty piano entry of ‘Gleich und Gleich’ set the scene for the watercolour vocal portrait of a ‘flower and bee’ romance that juxtaposed nicely the richer oils of the sorrowful ‘So lasst mich scheinen’.

“…it was an intelligently crafted hour of Motherhood and Apfelkuchen…”

Tynan returned to her Irish roots with a charming set of folksongs arranged by Hebert Hughes: ‘The Leprechaun’; ‘I know where I’m goin’’; ‘Marry me now’; The Gartan Mother’s Lullaby’. Melody led, they nonetheless contain some of the interesting harmonic twists typical of the pastoralists of the early 20th century, allowing Burnside to provide subtle accompanying subtext. ‘Marry me now’ also allowed a clever role reversal: the words are those of a sailor leaving his lady-love, and the martial accompaniment underscores this element – but with Tynan’s powerful vocal persona, it was transformed into the demand of a strong and independent woman who knows exactly what she wants.

One is never sure, with Charles Ives, whether his more ‘traditional’ compositions are heartfelt or simply amused pastiche, but they are nonetheless always a delight to listen to. The opening of ‘Memories’ will be familiar to many – the breathless ‘we’re sitting in the opera house’ is full of bouncing excitement – but its contrasting ‘b’ section (marked ‘rather sad’), a memory of an old tune hummed by a loved uncle, is less well known, and provides a lovely foil whose tristesse Tynan and Burnside managed with a sensitive touch. The melancholy returned in another Ives setting ‘Songs my mother taught me’, a sepia-tinted vignette whose rocking piano and lyric lines summoned a bygone age.

‘Pregnant’ from Libby Larsen’s song cycle ‘The Birth Project’ is one of Tynan’s party pieces, and she performed it with her customary wit and flair. She also brought intensity yet lightness of touch to the somewhat soupy (and why not?) arrangement of Harold Arlen’s ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’, a tribute to NHS workers.

• The series features a live concert every weekday in June. They can be viewed here: wigmore-hall.org.uk/watch-listen/live-stream


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