mon 17/06/2024

Louise Alder & Friends, Wigmore Hall review - magic carpet rides with soprano, strings and woodwind | reviews, news & interviews

Louise Alder & Friends, Wigmore Hall review - magic carpet rides with soprano, strings and woodwind

Louise Alder & Friends, Wigmore Hall review - magic carpet rides with soprano, strings and woodwind

Levitational joy in an all-French programme, with modified rapture over two arrangements

Violinists Tim Crawford and Ying Xue, pianist Joseph Middleton, soprano Louise Alder, cellist John Myerscough, viola-player Hélène Clément and double-bassist Laurène Durantel in Fauré's 'La bonne chanson'All images c The Wigmore Hall Trust

Sometimes all the stars align in musical performance. There’s no soprano more alive to the expression of musical joy and rapture than Louise Alder, no composer more levitational in his strange later adventures than Fauré, no instrumentalists strings better than pianist Joseph Middleton, the Doric String Quartet and double-bass player Laurène Durantel at being supernatural companions throughout his song-cycle La bonne chanson.

Fauré's other miracles among his chamber works turn up with comparative regularity in concert, but for some reason I've not experienced his nine-song tribute to Paul Verlaine live before. So from first vioinist Tim Crawford's magical first sigh through to the final setting of "cette fantaisie et cette raison" it was a case of rising above the ground and never quite touching it, even if the composer's endless modulations and strange excursions sometimes came to rest. Spellbound to the point of unconsciously abandoning my critical faculties when it came to details, I can only note the perfection especially with which each song was rounded off ("La lune blanche" especially with its famous conclusion "C'est l'heure exquise"). Louise Alder at the Wigmore HallEffervescent in presentation as always, Alder told us that what felt like ages of pregnancy had addled her brain and made her programme a very short first half. We weren't complaining, but there was sheer delight, too, in what she'd added, Berlioz's "La Captive" for soprano, cello (John Myerscough of the Dorics) and piano. There could have been five more verses, so captivating were the refrains especially, where Alder showed no weakness in the lower register of a totally connected voice.

The second half had a flaw not apparent in prospect. George Strivens had arranged both Ravel's Shéhérazade and a selection of Canteloube's Songs of the Auvergne for wind quintet alongside piano (pictured below, Amina Hussain, Rachael Clegg, Middleton, Alder, Max Welford, Guylaine Eckersley and Mark Alder Bennett). It may be the Wigmore's far from perfect acoustics amplified the woodwinds' middle registers, but they offered too much competition for the full-voiced soprano, who nevertheless provided the full frisson on the climax of "Asie" for the word "haine" (hate). Louise Alder at the Wigmore Hall I can't help feeling Ravel's oriental rhapsodies would have worked better with the crucial flute/piccolo and oboe/cor anglais alongside two or three strings to set cushions on this particular flying carpet. Flautist Amina Hussain, wearing orange shalvar trousers to complement Alder's blue silk, was a true partner in "La flûte enchantée", and later Rahcel Clegg on cor anglais and clarinettist Max Welfordcame to the fore as rustic voices in the Canteloube. There were plenty of opportunities for the wind to shine here, and Middleton managed to make the tinkling ivories of "Baïlèro" truly dreamy. Another instrument joined the fray for the several more earthy numbers - the tambourine, of which Alder proved to be an accomplished as well as an exuberant exponent.

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