LORRAINE HUNT LIEBERSON in recital with Roger Vignoles, piano – Music by MAHLER, HANDEL, PETER LIEBERSON, TRAD., and BRAHMS – Recorded live at Wigmore Hall, London, on November 30, 1998 – Wigmore Hall

by | May 24, 2007 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

LORRAINE HUNT LIEBERSON in recital with Roger Vignoles, piano – Music by MAHLER, HANDEL, PETER LIEBERSON, TRAD., and BRAHMS – Recorded live at Wigmore Hall, London, on November 30, 1998 – Wigmore Hall Live 13 [Distr. by Koch], 59’22”, *****:

After a great and greatly-loved artist has died, any first release retrospectively of a live performance is likely to be deeply moving. In the case of the mezzo soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, considering the love in which she was held, and the repertoire on this Wigmore Hall recital from 1998, the experience is particularly poignant. She is singing songs of love and death by composers profoundly familiar with the subjects, and she is singing them with only the simple partnership of a pianist who is on her wave length.

In the case of Mahler (his 5 Rückert Lieder), Handel (arias from Ariodante and Theodora, the latter an exceptionally moving “As with rosy steps”), the spiritual “Deep River” and Brahms (“Unbewegte laue Luft”), Lieberson seems to wrap herself around the music and the words in an embrace of the closest possible identification. There is no haste, no wasted motion, nothing but pure solitude and, in many of these songs, sadness and consolation. In the music by her husband, two of his five Rilke songs and Triraksha’s aria (“So many years have passed”) from Ashoka’s Dream, the music and Lieberson seem to curl about each other like the tendrils of a musical dream. It is quite an extraordinary sensation. 

The sound from Wigmore Hall for vocal recitals has proved to be less problematic than that for chamber music, and this one is near ideal, creating an intimate space for the musicians in which one can sense the audience without their intruding. Stephen Pettit’s program notes on the music make useful reference to Lieberson’s involvement with the music. The biographical note by Charles Michener, who wrote the extensive New Yorker profile in 2004, is illuminating.

– Laurence Vittes
 

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