Monday 4 December 2017

James Way and Nigel Foster in Die schöne Müllerin

James Way (photo Natalie Burch)
James Way (photo Natalie Burch)
Schubert Die schöne Müllerin 
James Way, Nigel Foster
London Song Festival at Hinde Street Methodist Church
Reviewed by Anthony Evans on Dec 1 2017 
Star rating: 3.5
A sensitive and beautiful account of Schubert's first song cycle from a talented young tenor

One of the little pleasures of winter in the smoke is to step out of the hustle and bustle away from the early evening chill and into a secret oasis of calm for a musical tipple.

2017 marks the 10th anniversary of the London Song Festival an annual event founded by the pianist Nigel Foster to promote "the Cinderella" of the music world, song repertoire. And in Hinde Street Methodist Church on the first day of meteorological Winter (1 December 2017), a step from the frenetic St. Christopher’s Place, Nigel Foster and tenor James Way paired up for a performance of Schubert’s poignant song cycle Die schöne Müllerin.

Schubert and Müller’s exploration of a young man’s journey from youthful optimism to despair might seem clichéd but for it’s sheer heart-breaking straightforwardness and honesty. A salutary tale of what can lie in wait for the naive.

Wilhelm Müller by Johann Friedrich Schröter
Wilhelm Müller by
Johann Friedrich Schröter
From the outset the pianistic flow of emotional and natural currents and James Way’s warm lyric tenor all wide eyed innocence and vulnerability, were a portent of the story’s tragic trajectory. Way’s elegant legato, full of pathos, never lapsed into sentimentality. In this introspective reading both the finely tuned accompaniment and vocal line were poised and restrained, the intensity slipping just occasionally with an unfocussed pianissimo or imprecise bit of tuning. For me songs 13-17 seemed to flag slightly, 'Der Jäger' felt too nonchalant whilst 'Die liebe Farbe' and 'Die böse Farbe' were so refined there was little hint of the gut wrenching angst that could precipitate the poor white miller’s demise. The final act though was beautifully done, now broken hearted the miller submitted to his fate, finding solace and peace in death’s embrace.

This was a sensitive and beautiful interpretation but I’d like to come back again in a few years when James Way has been around the playground a few more times to see how experience tempers his interpretation.

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