Thursday 16 July 2020

Music when no-one else is near: Michael Mofidian and Julia Lynch live from Glasgow City Halls on BBC Radio 3

Michael Mofidian performing at the Classical Opera and the Mozartists Gala Concert, Goldsmiths' Hall. Photo credit Roger Way
Michael Mofidian performing at the Classical Opera and the Mozartists Gala Concert, Goldsmiths' Hall. Photo credit Roger Way
Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Ravel, RVW; Michael Mofidian, Julia Lynch; BBC Radio 3/Glasgow City Halls

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 14 July 2020
The first of BBC Radio 3's concerts live from Glasgow saw the young Scottish-Iranian bass-baritone in Music when no-one else is near

It was lovely to catch bass-baritone Michael Mofidian and pianist Julia Lynch in the first of BBC Radio 3's live recitals (without an audience) from City Halls Glasgow on Tuesday (14 July 2020). The four lunchtime recitals this week are all being given by artists who are living within and hour of Glasgow, and Mofidian and Lynch launched things in fine style with a programme entitled Music when no-one else is near, very apt for the current circumstances, with songs by Schubert, Ravel and Tchaikovsky, plus RVW's Robert Louis Stevenson settings, Songs of Travel.

We started with Schubert's Der Wanderer, apt indeed. It is, embarrassingly it is quite some time since I heard Mofidian in recital live, and I was very struck by the wonderfully dark richness of timbre of his voice, allied still to a nice flexibility. Once heard, you cannot help but project into the future and think of the possibilities of roles; but there was certainly plenty to enjoy in the present. Schubert's wanderer was dignified and sober, yet always haunted by the darker tones of the voice and supported by Lynch's throbbing piano.

Next came a group of Tchaikovsky's songs in Russian, all beautifully realised with a combination of language and speaking tones. Bless You Forests was all dark and romantic melancholy, whilst The Gentle Stars Shone for Us moved from the lighter to the richly passionate, and vigorous account of Don Juan's Serenade completed the group.

Maurice Ravel's Don Quichotte à Dulcinée must be some of the strangest film-music ever as they were commissioned for GW Pabst' film version of Don Quichotte (though Ravel missed the deadline so Ibert's music was used instead). The three contrasting songs are linked to the voice of Feodor Chaliapin, so no pressure there, but though the film starred Chaliapin, he did not premiere the songs. Here, the first was rather infectious with Lynch providing a sophisticated piano part to partner Mofidian's vigorous yet seductive Quichotte. For the second song things turned darkly melancholic, rising to real passion and the third was lively with a nice swagger from Mofidian and great rhythms in the piano.

Vaughan Williams' early song-cycle Songs of Travel sets poetry by the Scots writer Robert Louis Stevenson (of Treasure Island fame). They depict the thoughtful wanderings of our hero, and RVW's settings very much bring out the mystical side of the composer. The first song had a superb swagger to it, whilst in the second, Let beauty awake, lyrical beauty combined with robustness, clearly our young wanderer is something of a rough diamond. Mofidian brought out a tension between the lyricism of some songs and his lovely dark grainy toned voice which I enjoyed. He charmed in the third song, and was all concentrated passion in the fourth, moving to dark melancholy for the next. It was in The Infinite Shining Heavens that the sense of mysticism came out, and a bit of swagger returned in the next song. This continued with the robust eighth song (which was where the cycle originally ended, thanks to RVW's publisher), yet we had a robust mysticism for the final song.

There was an encore, another lovely darkly melancholy Tchaikovsky song.

The recital is on BBC iPlayer for 30 days.

Elsewhere on this blog
  • Vienna 1910: the Alban Berg Ensemble Wien in sophisticated and vibrant accounts of works by Mahler, Schoenberg and Richard Strauss - CD review
  • Joyful and imaginative: written for a late-18th century English aristocrat, Tommaso Giordani trios for violin, viola da gamba & fortepiano prove delightful finds - CD review
  • The Invention of English Opera: the surprising history of opera in 17th century England, part one, from masques to dramatic-opera - feature article
  • Heroic Handel: I chat to Chris Parsons, artistic director of Eboracum Baroque, about the group's plans including a large-scale on-line concert - interview
  • Incidental music to The Ruins of Athens: prime Beethoven linked to a forgetten play - CD review
  • Schubert's Four Seasons: an imaginative exploration of Schubert song from Sharon Carty and Jonathan Ware - CD review
  • They that in ships unto the sea go down - Music for the Mayflower from Passamezzo on Resonus Classics - CD review
  • French seasons and a Belgian violinist: I chat to Anna Ovsyanikova about her explorations of violin repertoire and her new disc - interview
  • Lyrical English pastoralism and more: the choral music of Owain Park showcased by The Epiphoni Consort on Delphian - CD review
  • Il gondoliere Veneziano: A musical voyage through Venice - baritone Holger Falk evokes the musical world of the 18th century gondolier in this imaginative disc - CD review
  • Seductively original, neither completely new nor completely old: The Red Book of Ossory from Anakronos on Heresy Records - CD review
  • 'Home

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