Italienisches Liederbuch (Lott, Jackson/Johnson)*

(Concert review)

    On October 2 in the Purcell Room Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook was given a complete reading by Felicity Lott and Richard Jackson, accompanied by Graham Johnson, who had arranged the songs in a new order. The reshuffle didn't sound like a new deal to me; but it scored some good points.

   Felicity Lott was adept at interlacing her melodic lines with inflections of humour or pathos; in this way she even enhanced some or the lesser numbers, e.g. Wenn du mein Liebster. Richard Jackson was equally memorable, especially when he sang simply and lyrically; but occasionally he risked sacrificing Wolf's line and tone to a dramatic expression which is rarely relevant to the men's songs. Even in the most overtly histrionic or them, Geselle, woll’n wir - that audaciously Boccaccian ballad or the false monk and his underhand habit (not to mention his under­habit hand) - any suggestion of gesture or stage-­effect can safely be left to the piano.

    That was in safe hands; Graham Johnson is already both a gifted and a disciplined artist. Not only the more flamboyant postludes (Ein Ständchen; Ich hab in Penna) were his forte; his piano in such quieter moments as the lingering nuances that conclude Wie viele Zeit was equally eloquent of the sensitive Wolfian.

    The programme was devised in homage to that great singer Flora Nielsen, on what was said to be her 75th birthday - though her personal appearance (warmly applauded) suggested some considerable over-estimate. A fitting tribute to the evening would be to say that it was a fitting tribute to her.

The Musical Times, Dec. 1975 (p. 1077) © the estate of eric sams