To the best of my recollection I’ve not previously heard the baritone William Berger and this may be his solo debut disc. However, you’ll find him as one of the soloists on Ludus Baroque’s 2010 recording of Handel’s
Alexander’s Feast. This present disc preserves a recital programme that he devised for the 2011 Lucerne Festival. As Richard Stokes tells us in his excellent notes, the programme describes “a sleepless night experienced by a man who reflects on his love for an unnamed woman.” As Stokes comments, it’s never made clear whether the woman in question is alive, dead - or only exists in the man’s dreams. The programme, laced with good helpings of Fauré and Wolf - and none the worse for that - is imaginatively andRead more discerningly put together. The songs are grouped round various times in the evening and night, which I’ve deliberately included in the track-listing.
Berger impresses from the outset with a firm, well focused baritone. He sets his stall out in Mozart’s
Abendempfindung, which he delivers with a lovely, easy legato. The voice is evenly produced throughout its compass; diction is clear; the texts are put across with intelligence and understanding; and the tone is warm and unforced. In a sense I could leave it there since these prove to be the hallmarks of Berger’s singing throughout the programme. To do so, however, would be unfair, not least to the singer, whose performances I greatly enjoyed.
He proves to be very good in Fauré. His vocal timbre sounds authentically Gallic in
Claire delune and I also enjoyed his performance of
Mandoline very much. He also impresses in English song. He is able to produce, in Richard Stokes’ phrase, the necessary “peerless legato” in Warlock’s atmospheric song and I was delighted to find him selecting pieces by Vaughan Williams and Richard Rodney Bennett that aren’t exactly common currency in the recital room. On this evidence I’d very much like to hear him again in English song.
Hugo Wolf’s hypnotic
Um Mitternacht is very well done. Berger and Burnside convey the brooding ambience and this is one of many items in which Berger’s legato and fine sense of line pay dividends.
Oh! quand je dors is a delight. Berger deploys a wonderful
mezza voce at times, such as the end of the second stanza and the last line of all, hushed and intense, is most sensitively done.
Morgen! seems to have been appropriated by female singers but there’s absolutely no reason why a man shouldn’t sing it. Berger excels here, giving a rapt performance; the wonderfully withdrawn delivery of the last line is particularly admirable.
Iain Burnside is a fine accompanist, adept at switching from one style to another and supporting his singer admirably yet not to the detriment of his own musical personality. Only once did I have any doubts. His playing seems rather forceful in Schubert’s
Auf der Bruck. Of course, there must be urgency but Burnside seems a bit forceful and the tone hardens as a result. To find a quick comparison I took down the 1994 Schubert recital disc by Bryn Terfel and Malcolm Martineau (DG). It seems to me that Martineau’s playing, while urgent, is not as driven as Burnside’s - or maybe the piano was recorded with a bit more distance by DG. In the interests of balance, however, I should say that I preferred the pacing in this Berger/Burnside recording: they are slightly more measured - though by no means slow - and by comparison Terfel and Martineau sound a bit rushed.
This is a fine recital, which I enjoyed very much. Careful thought has gone into the programme building and the execution of the programme is consistently excellent. The recorded sound is up to Delphian’s usual high standards, as is the documentation though I am disappointed that most of the English translations are printed below the original texts: a side-by-side presentation is much easier to follow. The playing time may seem on the short side but on this occasion I think one can overlook this since the disc preserves the integrity of the original recital programme. In any case, this is an instance where quality is much more important than quality.
This is a distinguished and enjoyable recital. More please!
Viens, les gazons sont vertsby Charles Gounod Performer:
William Berger (Baritone),
Iain Burnside (Piano)
Period: Romantic Written: 1875; France
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
A Dream RecordingDecember 13, 2012By Joseph Erdeljac (West Chester, PA)See All My Reviews"This recital by Burnside is magnificent. He is in great voice and the selections are delightful and varied. This is a baritone voice to remember. His tone is so smooth and delicious that it at times reminds one of the great Fischer-Dieskau."Report Abuse