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2011.08.19 Recital, Edinburgh Festival, Edinburgh: Malcolm Martineau


19 August 2011, 7:30 pm
Usher Hall, Edinburgh Festival

Simon Keenlyside
Malcolm Martineau




Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft!
Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt
Ich ging mit Lust
Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder
Liebst du um Schönheit
Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht


Le manoir de Rosemonde


Nuit d’etoiles
Voici que le printemps
Les angelus


Das Rosenband


Auf der Donau
Der Einsame
An mein Klavier
Wanders Nachtlied ll
Im Walde

1. An den Mond in einer Herbstnacht (Schubert)
2. Ständchen (Brahms)

About the performance

The acclaimed British baritone Simon Keenlyside delights audiences around the world with a voice rich in expression and character. Following last year’s appearance at The Queen’s Hall, Keenlyside returns with works by Mahler, Strauss and Schubert alongside more intimate songs by Duparc and Debussy.

Simon Keenlyside: ‘a sound so honeyed and so enticing that whilst listening to it you can’t imagine that there is a lovelier lyric baritone on the planet.’ The Independent

Malcolm Martineau: ‘outstandingly eloquent, stage-managing the emotional drama of a lover’s dawn song, or a huntsman’s heartsick soul-storm.’ The Times

This concert will be broadcast on 31 August 2011 as BBC Radio 3’s Lunchtime Concert.

What the critics say

Simon Thompson, Seen and Heard International, 22.8.2011

Coming to Simon Keenlyside so soon after a comparable recital by Bo Skovhus was like moving from the fog into glorious sunshine. Where Skovhus sounded uncertain and lacking in focus, Keenlyside relaxed into singing of glorious confidence. His Mahler segment, covering much of the same material as Skovhus, showed his interpretative skills at their finest, sardonic and witty in St Anthony’s sermon to the fish, expansive and lyrical in the Rückert songs. He invested the youthful songs, like Ich ging mit Lust and Frühlingsmorgen, with all the passion and warmth of the mature composer and he showed marvellous breath control in the long-spun phrases of the Wunderhorn trifle, Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht.

Outstanding technique was also on display for a marvellous set of Schubert songs, especially the astonishing Goethe setting of Prometheus, and he crowned the recital with a wonderful reading of Im Walde, one of the composer’s most extraordinary songs.

Excellent technique was also in evidence for the altogether more muscular settings of Strauss, more creamy tone matching the complex melodic language of the piano, brilliantly played by Malcolm Martineau. The ardent longing of Befreit sat a little uncomfortably next to the heady fin-de-siècle imagery of Rosenband, but that endlessly beautful farewell showed Keenlyside at his best, suggesting great depths beneath the simple surface, and achieving extraordinary pathos in the final cry of O Glück!

If anything, though, it was the French selection that showed him at his finest. The richness of the open vowels fitted the velvety beauty of his voice like a glove, and he was excellent at expressing the barely repressed erotic tension in Duparc’s Phidylé. Nor was he afraid to tap into the touch of the Music-Hall about the Debussy songs, and Martineau also seemed to relish the fun of these accompaniments while summoning playing of incredible beauty for the descending thirds of Nuit d’étoiles. A superb recital from an extraordinary pairing.

Carol Main, Edinburgh festival.com, 22.8.2011

Combining a programme description of “intimate songs” with a venue listing of Usher Hall made alarm bells ring as to how a solo voice and piano recital such as that offered by Simon Keenlyside and Malcolm Martineau would work in practice.

It wasn’t the right venue. It is testimony to the pair’s skill as musicians that they not only coped but surmounted the challenges, adjusting their delivery to suit the space. By the final set of songs by Schubert, it was as if they had magically shrunk the hall to a size more appropriate to the repertoire.

Opening with Mahler, the first set of songs felt too distant and a little bit lost. But Keenlyside’s consistent clarity of diction, coupled with all the finesse that he could ever want from Martineau on piano, began the process of drawing in the audience to establish the connection that makes for a meaningful performance. The deliciously honeyed, rounded baritone timbres opened out particularly well in Liebst du um Schönheit – If you love for beauty – a touching tug at the heart strings.

Even more expansive were four stunning songs by Debussy. Nuits d’etoiles shimmered as only night stars can when illuminating love. Elsewhere, in descriptive piano parts, bells pealed ever so gently in Les angelus and even brought an injection of humour to the beautifully performed Mandolin. It is Keenlyside and Martineau’s ability to penetrate the poetry, however, that packs their most powerful punch.

In Strauss’s six settings of poems all about love and the love of nature, the rich, long lines brought thought-through emotions, whether happiness, anguish or general rapture, all gaining enormously from the duo’s ever-balanced teamwork.

Iain Gilmore, EdinbughGuide.com, 24.8.2011

4 stars

Simon Keenlyside’s acclaimed Queens Hall success in the 2010 festival did not replicate readily in the vaster Usher hall, though a large – but not capacity – audience was vociferous at the baritone’s polished performance.

Solo recitals by voice and piano are far from being the best choice for the Usher Hall despite its excellent acoustics. The quality of this attractive programme and its execution by both singer and pianist dismissed the thought that it was designed for a more intimate setting.

Keenlyside’s extensive operatic experience in the world’s major opera houses ensured that his unamplified voice reached all the audience. Some of the nuances in the more delicate items may have been lost but there was no doubting his vocal power in strenuous pieces.

It is easy to forget that in many cases the piano is as vital as the voice to the listener’s appreciation of the music. Malcolm Martineau was impeccable in his timing and modulation as an accompanist and superb in preludes, interludes and finales when the singer was silent.

The programme was weighted heavily in favour of German lieder, Keenlyside’s favourite in his student days. On Friday night, he appeared more “at home” with songs in the German language, rather than French.

Nostalgia and delicacy certainly came across in the Duparc and Debussy songs but not the emotion endemic in Mahler and Strauss or the beauty of Schubert. Mahler’s irony was neatly phrased in St Anthony’s sermon to the fishes, given on the river bank when no one turned up in church (the fish may have heard but were unaffected).

Ruckert Lieder sung by mezzo-soprano Waltraud Meier with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra on Wednesday made different impact when sung by a baritone. It was a revelation to hear “Liebst du um Schonheit” in Mahler’s original piano form, not the orchestral version of its premiere.

In his Strauss selection Keenlyside demonstrated his full vocal range and impressive power, though for many the Schubert lieder were the highlight of the evening.

Two encores, introduced by the singer telling of his fascination with moonlight over Austrian mountains and lakes, were rapturously received.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

diana jones August 23, 2011 at 7:59 am

Sounds like this was a fabulous performance! Bravo, Simon and Malcolm! Absolutely can’t wait for the Radio 3 broadcast next week!! With this recital, the Proms Elijah at the weekend and the broadcast of the Durufle Requiem in September, the BBC are spoiling us – and long may they continue to do so!!

DK August 23, 2011 at 4:36 am
Jane March 24, 2011 at 8:07 am

Yes – couldn’t agree more with this comment about Simon’s voice from the Independent – sums up the idyllic sound that he produces so succinctly.
~ Jane

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