|Simon Keenlyside at the Wigmore Hall|
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Oct 24 2014
A strong musical pairing take us on a very poignant journey
We were lucky enough to attend the second of Simon Keenlyside and Emanuel Ax's performances of Schubert's song-cycle Die Winterreise, setting poems by Wilhelm Müller at the Wigmore Hall on 24 October 2014. A packed house heard this distinguished pairing take us on a very vividly characterised journey, with Keenlyside giving a highly dramatically projected, yet mesmerising performance.
All performances of Die Winterreise require the performer to go on a journey, for some this is very external and dramatic, whilst for others it is highly internalised. Keenlyside, who has performed the work in a dramatic theatrical context, gave a very externalised performance, effectively creating the character of the slightly naive young man before our eyes. But this was not to say that he neglected the songs' inner drama too, and we saw the young man go on his journey and suffer internally and externally. Keenlyside moved around the platform a great deal, and it was clear that this was carefully thought out to a dramatic purpose, not simple pacing. The result, ultimately, was not the darkest performance of the work that I have heard but it was perhaps one of the most characterful and certainly the most poignant and richly textured.
Vocally Keenlyside was in superb form, singing with a lovely firm and resonant line, combining a richness of lower register to a nice freedom in the upper. (We were not told what keys he was performing in, or what edition). Throughout he sang within the music, never distorting the line or the words for dramatic effect. He put the colours in his voice to great use, sometimes providing extreme lyric beauty but also bleached, bleak tone. He had clearly formed a strong musical partnership with Emanuel Ax who throughout provided characterful yet self-effacing accompaniment. This was a very equal partnership, and the musicality came from both, but with Ax content to allow the singer the limelight. He never pulled focus.