Thursday, 18 June 2020

A journey over the rainbow: Ailish Tynan & Iain Burnside take us from mature Grieg to Harold Arlen

Ailish Tynan and Iain Burnside at Wigmore Hall (Photo taken from Live Stream)
Ailish Tynan & Iain Burnside at Wigmore Hall (Photo taken from Live Stream)
Edvard Grieg, Hugo Wolf, Herbert Hughes, Charles Ives, Libby Larsen, Harold Arlen; Ailish Tynan, Iain Burnside; Wigmore Hall

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 17 June 2020
An engagingly wide-ranging recital which moved from Grieg and Wolf, through Herbert Hughes arrangements of Irish song to Ives, Libby Larsen and Harold Arlen

Soprano Ailish Tynan and pianist Iain Burnside continued BBC Radio 3 and Wigmore Hall's series of live lunchtime recitals with a song recital on Wednesday 17 June 2020, featuring songs by Edvard Grieg, Hugo Wolf, Charles Ives, Libby Larsen and Harold Arlen, plus a group of traditional Irish songs arranged by Herbert Hughes.

Tynan and Burnside opened with Grieg's Six Songs, Op. 48, songs to German texts which he wrote in the late 1880. These were his first settings of German texts for over 20 years and in them Grieg, who trained in Leipzig, came close to the style of the German lied. The first, 'Gruß' was lyrically impulsive whilst the second 'Dereinst, Gedanke mein' was thoughtful, yet the performance from Tynan and Burnside was still vivid. 'Lauf der Welt' had a perky charm to it, whilst, 'Die verschwiegene Nachtigall' was intimate and engaging. The touching 'Zur Rosenzeit' was full of dark melancholy and 'Ein Traum', the best known song of the group started magically and ended with Tynan full of rapture. Throughout the performances from Tynan and Burnside were full of character, capturing the songs' freshness.

Next came a group of Hugo Wolf's settings of Goethe. Wolf's Gedichte von J.W. v. Goethe dates from 1888 and 1889, almost contemporaneous with the Grieg, and Wolf wrote 51 settings of Goethe's poetry in a year. We began with Blumengruss, toughing and thoughtful, followed by Ganymed where Wolf's interestingly complex song successfully erases thoughts of other settings, particularly when performed, as here, with such an intense sense of rapture. In Gleich und gleich, Tynan and Burnside created a delightful sense of character, and then finished with Mignon's Kennst du das Land. There is no sense here that Mignon is a 13-year-old girl, Wolf's setting of Goethe's sophisticated lyric is interestingly complex and large scale, and received a darkly passionate performance from Tynan and Burnside.

We then moved forward in time with a group of traditional Irish songs arranged by Herbert Hughes. Hughes (1882-1937) was an Irish composer and collector of folksong. He trained at the Royal College of Music with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford and Charles Wood, and his approach to arranging folksong was akin to that of his exact contemporary Percy Grainger in that Hughes deliberately created an art-song which he regarded as an independent art-form, equal to that of the original. The Leprechaun displayed both the lively character of the original material, and the sophisticated nature of Hughes' arrangements with influences from continental composers. I know where I'm going was perhaps the best known song of the group, but in the hands of Hughes, Tynan and Burnside the result had far more character and far less surface romantic gloss than usual. Next came the wonderfully vigorous, Marry me now which Tynan invested with so much energy and fun, and finally the gentle lyricism of The Gartan Mother's Lullaby.

Next followed a mixed group of songs by American composers. First came Charles Ives' Memories: a. Very Pleasant, b. Rather Sad; the very pleasant portion being a wonderfully vivid account of a trip to the opera, and the rather sad, a touching memory of a song which linked back to the Irish traditional group. Then came Pregnant by the contemporary composer Libby Larsen (born 1950), from a cycle dealing with motherhood. Here Larsen used the conventional form of the song to raise expectations which the newly pregnant mothers eagerness completely overspilled, to dramatic and vivid effect. Then Ives again with the touching yet characterful Songs my mother taught me, and finally Somewhere over the rainbow by Harold Arlen, from The Wizard of Oz, in an arrangement by Malcolm Edmonstone.

Ailish Tynan was due to be making her role debut as Mimi in Puccini's La Boheme this year, with Grange Park Opera. So as an encore, she gave us Mimi's 'Sì, mi chiamano Mimì' (complete with a one-word contribution from Iain Burnside as Rodolfo!).

The concert is on BBC Sounds for 30 days, and available to stream from the Wigmore Hall website until 17 July 2020.

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