One of my favourite things about Edinburgh in August is getting to return to the Queen's Hall, one of the great venues for chamber music and vocal recitals (one day the city will wake up to this and properly support the planned refurbishment of the front of house areas, but that's another story). This particular recital was one of those lovely occasions when the performers swept me, beguiled, into their musical world.
Karen Cargill and Simon Lepper's recital was largely of late 19th/early 20th century French songs by Hahn, Debussy, Duparc and Chausson (with Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder as the finale). This is not a world with which I am particularly familiar, and I booked originally because I wanted to hear Cargill. It was a treat to discover these songs. The Hahn works in particular, which opened the recital, made a real impression on me – I think I must have occasionally heard his songs before but they didn't strike me then.
Cargill managed that trick of communicating across the language barrier. I had the texts in the programme in front of me, and I usually skimmed them before each group of songs – but while she was actually singing I found so much was communicated by the combination of expression and voice that one wanted to respond by giving full attention to the singer, and not being distracted by the printed text.
Cargill also showed striking vocal range. As a singer she was previously best known to me as a Wagnerian and that power was on display here, but much of the time she sang with a wonderful, intimate, softness of tone. Lepper accompanied sensitively and feelingly, effectively conjuring up the different moods and places across these songs.
Altogether this was, quite simply, a joy. If this partnership is performing near you, catch them.
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