mon 22/01/2018

Karita Mattila, Ville Matvejeff, Wigmore Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Karita Mattila, Ville Matvejeff, Wigmore Hall

Karita Mattila, Ville Matvejeff, Wigmore Hall

The Finnish diva's sumptuousness is sometimes overwhelming but always committed

Mattila: Commitment with a capital CMarica Rosengård

At first it all felt too much. In addition to the garish red arum lilies either side of the platform, an overwhelming scent of eau de Cologne from a neighbour and the always hard-to-fight Wigmore Hall torpor were our diva's pink and purple attire, her flashing jewels, and above all that opulent voice, which even in recitals is more accustomed to bigger spaces and still seemed at times to be channelling her demented Salome from The Rest is Noise festival's opening night.

Yet she had a pianist in fellow Finn Ville Matvejeff well up to a certain sacred-monster monumentalism, and by the interval most of us had succumbed to an unquestionably great instrument wielded by a soprano who is Committed with a capital C. Mattila's French first half attained the featured poet Baudelaire's famous requirements of luxe and volupté, but never the calme; she's not that sort of artist these days (was she ever?).

Our diva got to unleash all the physical flourishes of a style her nation knows and loves almost as well as the Argentinians

Poulenc's Banalités veer from brittle to lacerating; only the last was really in evidence here. Some missing consonants and the grand manner didn't do the opening "Song of Orkenise" many favours. Apollinaire's beloved smoking time was played out as if to the Albert Hall gallery rather than in the privacy of a hotel room and the fourth song's trip to the French capital had Mattila well equipped for the spoof vamping of "Ah, Paree!" in Sondheim's Follies (she will surely have a whale of a time with his mature cameos eventually, but that hour is some way off). On the plus side the sadness and the tears of the two weightiest songs in a typical Poulenc volte-face - anything but banal - came across with epic desolation.

Debussy's Baudelaire songs of 1889 have only really worked for me in John Adams's ravishing orchestration, which earlier this year had a singer more attuned to the French text in Dawn Upshaw. Mattila struck solid gold, though, with her Duparc sequence, presented as a three-scene drama complete with stylised gestures: such steady romantic line in "Chanson Triste", such mounting heroism about the waiting woman in "Au pays ou se fait la guerre" which took some elaborately physical rolling out of and in to the proper rapture, at last, of "Phidylé". The lovesong, though, was almost scarily intense: if this controlled auto-eroticism were turned on its object, I'd advise Phidylé to run a mile from a Mattila love-clinch.

Ville MatvejeffGone were the purple and pink for a second half which matched a more, but not much more, austere black number to Sallinen's Four Dream Songs. Never exactly discreet until now, Matvejeff (pictured right by Jani Laukkanen) set the mood with the Finnish composer's turbulent intensification of late-Sibelius darkness and Mattila shaped the often nightmarish nocturnal poetry of Paavo Haavikko to several shattering climaxes; no wonder the voice resonated through the piano sounding-board.

Matvejeff could easily have had his own spot of cascading Rachmaninov and Medtner, but he got the next best thing in the first of five songs by Austrian late romantic Joseph Marx, "Nocturne". While Mattila could have had an orchestra, and a vaster space, for everything she sang in this recital, the piano part held its own throughout and the duo sailed nobly forward to the robust affirmation of "Hat dich die Liebe berührt" ("If Love has Touched You").

The encores were well earned after a programme in which all Mattila's strengths and none of her more recent drawbacks - dodgy intonation and a hollow middle range, now conquered by taking a splendid chest voice high -  had been in evidence. Strauss's "Zueignung", the dedication of the title personally made to the audience of a hall Mattila clearly adores, offered some last epic billowing and was followed by a final dash of Finnish tango. At last our diva got to unleash all the physical flourishes of a style her nation knows and loves almost as well as the Argentinians. She promised another when the Wigmore invites her back, as of course it will; and next time, the hall had jolly well better be packed.

If this controlled auto-eroticism were turned on its object, I'd advise Phidylé to run a mile from a Mattila love-clinch

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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