Opera + Classical Music Reviews

Winterreise @ Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London

17 November 2010

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,No comfortable feel… Hoods sentiments find perhaps their best manifestation in Winterreise true depression in music. Occasionally hope sparkles amongst the text and the musical writing, only to be quickly crushed again by the all-consuming realisation that nothing can ever come to any good for the songs protagonist.

Adrian Thompson explored all the emotional corners of this song cycle during his performance at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he is Professor of Voice. His free and incisive tone reached comfortably throughout the enormous vocal span of almost two octaves required by this work, although he seemed most comfortable at the higher end of his range, where there was a ring to his top notes. Even more impressive was his dynamic range. A powerful fortissimo was utilised effectively in the dramatic passages of the work, which occur in almost every movement, heightening the sense of despair and anguish apparent throughout the work. However, he is also capable of sublime pianissimi which carry all the spin and sparkle of the louder notes. These were particularly effective in the Der Lindenbaum, and Der Leiermann, which carried a real sense of pathos and desolation in Thompsons interpretation.

Accompanist Hein Meens gave a sensitive and beautifully played rendition of the piano part, integrating seamlessly with Thompson to provide perfect ensemble whilst also clearly enjoying the performance in his own right. Nowhere was this more apparent than during Die Post, one of the song cycles few lighter moments, where the pianos pastiche of a posthorn is interspersed with the confused and perhaps slightly sarcastic verses. Meens performed this animated movement with vivacity and panache.

My one, minor criticism of this performance was Thompsons use of a score. Whilst he employed a range of uncontrived emotional expressions and maintained excellent eye contact with the audience, as well as giving an obviously well-prepared and intelligent performance, it is impossible for any musician to reach his or her full performance potential if there is a music stand between them and the audience.

Its hard to say that any good performance of Winterreise is enjoyable; the work is so melancholy and sombre that it is almost impossible for the performer to instil any positive emotions in the audience (and nor should this be the objective). However, this performance was so well-executed that, once the magical silence after the last movement had evaporated, the audience responded with rapturous and well-deserved applause. This was an extremely emotional and dynamic recital from two excellent musicians, and whilst it didnt raise my spirits, it certainly touched my heart.

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