It was a pity not to see many people at St Paul’s Anglican pro-Cathedral during the most recent in the Tuesday fortnightly lunchtime recitals.
This featured Bulgarian-born soprano Andriana Fenech-Yordanova, a singer of top notch professionalism, which was evident when to Shirley Helleur’s keyboard accompaniment she sang Schubert’s charming and ever-popular Die Forelle.
This paled in significance during her superb interpretation of Schumann’s Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart, Op. 135.
However, by then, trumpeter Andrew Helleur, accompanied by his wife Shirley, had performed F.E. Gautier’s pleasant piece The Secret.
After the Schumann cycle he performed an arrangement of an unidentified concert rondo by Mozart. Both were rendered in a refreshing, light-hearted manner, a mood which was in striking contrast to the Schumann cycle performed between these two pieces.
Schumann’s Op.135 conveys a tragic picture of an ill-starred woman, set to words attributed to the queen and translated intoGerman and versified by Gisbert Vincke.
The pianist, at an electronic keyboard, did her best to infuse her contribution to this performance with the elements which create the ideal projection which enhances the vocal part.
The mastery of the singer was not only in her excellent phrasing and her clear diction, it lay also in her ability to convey the various nuances within practically one and the same mood and state of mind.
She ably conveyed the difference in the sadness in N.1, Abschied von Frankreich (Ich zieh dahin, dahin!) and the other kind of farewell in N.4, Abschied von der Welt with great conviction.
In N.2, Nach der Geburt ihres Sohnes, (Herr Jesu Christ, den sie gekrönt mit Dornen) the atmosphere is one of prayer but one underlined by bitter-sweetness.
Her son’s birth, which should have been a source of happiness, was to be upset by the queen’s enemies when they rebelled against her. Never to see the boy again, by a strange twist he was to succeed her enemy Elizabeth on the throne, one Mary always believed to be rightfully hers.
That enemy is addressed in N.3, An die Königin Elisabeth (Nur eine Gedanke, der mich freut und quält). Mary writes to her cousin and rival, her feelings are strong but she acts under great restraint.
The tension is highly evident in the words, their projection and in the piano and which altogether sum up this internal conflict so brilliantly. In the concluding O Gott, mein Gebieter, ich hoffe auf dich! (N.5, Gebet), this is a woman close to death. There is fear, urgency but never a loss of dignity. Concise and matter-of-fact, it had an aura of such power and sense of genuine tragedy that a suspended hush at the end preceded the intense applause with which the fortunate audience greeted the performance. This too was the first time this cycle was ever performed in this country.
A different kind of passion and energy marked the last part of the programme. A lied in glorious, early Schumann: Myrten und Rosen, Op.24, N.9, the last in that Liederkreis cycle.
It was a lovely crescendo of feeling and emotion, a great outpouring of love. This led to the inevitable: it was encored.
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