Monday, 4 March 2013

Lied in London - Louise Alder

Louise Alder, photo William Alder 2010
To South Kensington last night (3 March) for one of Gary Matthewman's Lied in London recitals. This was an evening of songs by Debussy, Strauss, Liszt, Duparc, Poulenc, RVW and Roger Quilter sung by soprano Louise Alder with Gary Matthewman accompanying. Alder is the inaugural Kiri te Kanawa Scholar at the Royal College of Music International Opera School and she will be appearing as Clomiri in Handel's Imeneo at the London Handel Festival later this month at the Britten Theatre.

Alder and Matthewman opened with Debussy's Quatre Chansons de jeunesse, (Pantonmime, Clair de lune, Pierro, Apparition). Settings of Verlaine, Theodore de Banville and Stephane Mallarme from early in Debussy's career. Alder displayed a wonderfully vibrant voice, with a fine expressive command of French. The songs are varied in style and she conveyed the nuances of each with both body and voice.  Her lyric voice is highly expressive and with a lovely rich lower register.

She followed the Debussy with Richard Strauss's Drei Lieder der Ophelia, settings of Karl Simrock's translations of Ophelia's songs from Hamlet. Here Alder switched language and style quite brilliantly and coped with the almost Zerbinetta like demands that Strauss makes in some of the songs. It is quite curious to listen to these songs and think Hamlet but hear echoes of Strauss's operas (the songs date from between Ariadne auf Naxos and Die Frau ohne Schatten). No matter, these are brilliant songs and Alder conveyed superbly Ophelia's gradual drift into total madness.

She finished the first half with Liszt's Tre Sonnetti di Petrarca. These are the product of Liszt's fascination with Italy and with bel canto and inhabit a world not far from Bellini, but coloured by Liszt's very own genius. They are richly passionate, with some long beautiful lines and more complex harmonies than anything Bellini might have written. Technically written for a tenor, Alder convinced with her richly passionate performance, sense of line and the vivid intensity of her voice.

Two further Liszt songs opened the second half, this time setting French. Enfant, si j'etais roi and Comment disaient-ils. Both charming and both Liszt, not quite fitting into the traditional French song style. Alder and Matthewman followed these with more French song, but Duparc and Poulenc. First two perfect, stylish performances of Duparc songs, Chanson Triste and Romance de Mignon. I have always found Chanson Triste one of the most beautiful of Duparc's songs and Alder did not disappoint.

Then two Poulenc, Deux poemes de Louis Aragon, first the charming and infinitely touching C and then the dazzling Fetes galantes. In this latter Alder's verbal dexterity was amazing, demonstrating her fine command of French.

Finally four English songs, RVW's Orpheus with his Lute and Silent Noon, Roger Quilter's Fiar House of Joy and Love's Philiosophy.

Alder has a lovely soprano voice, one which she knows how to use. A naturally dramatic singer, she used her voice dramatically and vividly, she is certainly a talent to watch. The recital showed her off in a variety of styles and demonstrated a clear gift for languages. She was beautifully accompanied by Gary Matthewman, who in both the Liszt and the Strauss was far more of a partner than accompanist.

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