Friday 26 June 2009

Aldeburgh 2009: Not a review of Ian Bostridge

I've only been to one thing at Aldeburgh today, Ian Bostridge's recital, and this isn't going to be a review of it. At least, not a proper review anyway. Why then, you might reasonably ask, write about the concert at all. Well, the short answer is that I've written about everything else I've been to at Aldeburgh this year and my compulsive side just won't let this one slide.

So why isn't this a proper review? Well, for two reasons. Firstly, I am not the world's greatest lieder fan and don't know the area as well as I do other things (though that doesn't normally stop me). More importantly however, Ian Bostridge just doesn't do it for me. I know there are a lot of people who admire him greatly, but he tends at best to leave me cold; at worst I find he overacts and over-emotes horribly and I have to avert my eyes. I also don't think his diction and pronunciation are what they could be. The upshot is that I don't think I can give an objective or, frankly, terribly helpful opinion about his concert. You might well ask why, given that, I was even at the concert. The answer is that I honestly don't know.

In fairness to Bostridge, it has been a good few years since I last heard him live (I think that was also at Aldeburgh but with Ades). His voice is now less boyish and altogether more pleasant for it. Similarly, his mannerisms are slightly less (though I still can't quite be doing with all the swinging about).

The programme consisted of Schumann songs in the first half and Brahms in the second. I will confess that I found the Schumann a little samey and during the Brahms I found myself rather enjoying the piano part (and wanting to hear some solo piano recitals of his work) and largely ignoring the voice. As often in lieder, I also wondered why they didn't choose to set better poetry (or, I suppose I should say, poetry rather more to my taste).

Even if I did feel in a position to write a proper review, I still might not be able to. The accompanist was to have been Graham Johnson (well regarded and the mastermind of the complete Hyperion Schubert lieder survey), but he was replaced at short notice by Roger Vignoles and it did appear that they would have benefited from more rehearsal time together; but it's tough to step in at the last minute, especially with less common repertoire.

Nonetheless, for those who like Bostridge, and there are plenty, it was clearly an enjoyable evening. He was well received and they gave us two encores, one of which someone sitting next to us identified as from Schumann's Dichterliebe (I don't know what the second was).

If you like Bostridge you probably would have liked it, if not, you probably wouldn't. Moral of the story: note to self, don't book him next time and let someone who'll get something from it have the seat.

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