Wigmore Live: Keenlyside and Martineau (CD) Oct 2008

Wigmore Live: Simon Keenlyside & Malcolm Martineau (CD)


Five out of Five stars: Sunday Telegraph

Simon Keenlyside (baritone)
Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Recording details: Recorded live on 26 October 2008, Wigmore Hall, London, United Kingdom. Click here for details of the recital

Release date: 22 September 2009

Label: Wigmore Live WHLIVE0031
Number of Discs: 1

Track listing

1. An Sivlia – 2.47
2. Einsiedelei – 1.33
3. Verklärung – 3.36
4. Die Sterne – 3.35
5. Himmelsfunken – 3.03
6. Ständchen – 4.25

7. Der Knabe und das Immelein – 2.56
8. Gesang Weyla’s – 1.37
9. An die Geliebte – 3.20
10. Auf eine Christblume II – 2.12
11. Lied eines Verliebten – 1.44
12. Lied vom Winde – 3.10

13. Aubade – 2.10
14. En sourdine – 3.09
15. Green – 1.58
16. Notre amour – 1.58
17. Fleur jetée – 1.35
18. Spleen – 2.29
19. Madrigal – 1.32
20. Le papillon et la fleur – 2.49

Ravel. Histoires naturelles
21. Le paon – 4.44
22. Le grillon – 3.19
23. Le cygnet – 3.28
24. Le martin-pêcheur – 3.02
25. La pintade – 4.01

26. Announcement 00.10
27. Poulenc Hôtel – 2.25

We are very proud to say that to help celebrate www.simonkeenlyside.info reaching 1,000,000 hits in October 2009, Wigmore Hall teamed up with us to offer our readers a special deal on Simon’s Wigmore Live CD. [This offer has now passed]

What the critics say

Michael Kennedy, Sunday Telegraph, 22 November 2009

Five out of Five stars

Simon Keenlyside has no peers and few equals among English baritones, and this recital recorded in October last year demonstrates why. With the telepathic Malcolm Martineau as his pianist partner, he sings a generous selection of lieder and chansons of Schubert, Wolf, Faure and Ravel. Several of them about the birds and animals which are his special interest. Thus, Ravel’s Histoires naturelles are invested with extra insights. In favourites such as Schubert’s Serenade and Wolfs Gesang Weyla’s, Keenlyside’s velvety tone, expressive phrasing and immaculate diction are an example to all.

BBC Radio 3 CD Review, 21 November 2009, with Andrew McGregor

CD Review Disc of the Week

…A recital of German and French songs given at Wigmore Hall in October last year by baritone Simon Keenlyside and pianist Malcolm Martineau. They started with Schubert, a group of six songs before half a dozen by Hugo Wolf, then Fauré, and Ravel’s Histoires Naturelles which I’ll play you in full. But it’s with the Wolf settings that it starts to get really special for me. Keenlyside revelling in the spare textures and startling harmonic juxtapositions, and Martineau alive to every nuance. I’ll play you the last two, Lied eines Verliebten, a lover’s song as he lies awake at dawn while other lads are sleeping, kept awake by his obsession. Then comes Lied vom Winde, Song of the wind roaring across the world, never stopping never resting, too busy to discuss love with the poet, and anyway, love’s like the wind, swift and brisk, not always constant. First though it’s dawn, and there’s no sleep for this young man in love…


Song of the Wind and before it the lovers song by Hugo Wolf from Simon Keenlyside’s CD of last October with pianist Malcolm Martineau. And after the Schubert and Wolf there was a French second half. Eight Fauré songs with a lightness of touch and real sensuality, and then comes Ravel’s Histoires Naturelles, satirical vignettes of four birds and an insect done with delicious detail, humour and a story-tellers eye and ear for detail. The peacock in his full regalia waits in vain for his bride-to-be. The cricket obsessively cleans and clears his home. The swan tries in vain to grasp the clouds it sees reflected in the water with its beak but at least has the compensation of a worm after every dip. The kingfisher perches on the edge of the unsuccessful fisherman’s rod. The guinea fowl is enraged by the hens who seem to be making fun of her dumpy figure in the farmyard. So first here’s the peacock in his wedding finery, left at the altar yesterday, surely he’ll be married today.


Ravel’s Natural Histories, Histoires Narurelles, from peacock to guinea fowl essayed with such clear understanding and gentle humour by Simon Keenlyside and Malcolm Martineau. I hope you can hear why that’s CD Review disc of the week. You can find it on Wigmore Hall Live.

Roy C. Dicks, www.cvnc.org, 6.4.2010

Simon Keenlyside is certainly at the top of his game at the moment. Having performed internationally now for over two decades, his confidence, intelligence and sincere musicality make him sought after for high profile operatic assignments and for recitals in notable venues. Thousands saw him in late March in the title role of Thomas’ “Hamlet” by way of the Metropolitan Opera’s HD movie theater transmission, a performance that confirmed his riveting dramatic concentration and subtle emotional insights.

That same interpretive talent comes through even when it’s only heard and not seen. This live recording from an October 26, 2008, recital in London’s Wigmore Hall shows off Keenlyside’s range and sensibilities in a nigh-perfect presentation.

The six Schubert songs that open the program form a mini-catalog of this artist’s abilities. His diction is clean and true, without undue exaggeration; his vocal production warm and open, never strained. He finds subtle variations in familiar songs, such as “An Silvia” and “Ständchen,” while saving his deepest focus for less familiar items. He makes a mini-drama out of “Verklärung,” agitatedly intense when calling upon nature to cease life’s pain, ecstatically hushed when addressing the spirits of death. Similarly, Keenlyside gives “Himmelsfunken” a radiant calm as he describes the call to heaven. Each song has its own dramatic world precisely differentiated from the others.

Six Wolf songs provide a wider range of character and mood, which Keenlyside eagerly takes on, applying specific colors and weight to each odd shift and pause. He finds great beauty in “An die Geliebte,” with its passionate tribute to a beloved, and tortured obsession in “Lied eines Verliebten,” with its crazed lover’s longings. Pianist Malcolm Martineau provides equally intense or wafting accompaniment as required.

Although Keenlyside lightens his voice and style for the two French groups, it is still a more robust sound than usually associated with such material. However, he uses his French diction and huge dynamic range to characterize each song with admirable specificity. In the eight Fauré works, Keenlyside supplies ardent youth in “Green,” palpitating breathlessness in “Notre amour,” and bitter anger in “Fleur jetée,” nicely underpinned by Martineau’s cheeky, spiky keyboard contributions. In the five pieces that make up Ravel’s “Histoires naturelles,” Keenlyside shifts into impressionist mode, singing of peacock, cricket, swan, kingfisher and guinea fowl with appropriate languidness, mirrored in Martineau’s dreamy support. (There’s a Poulenc encore, the slight “Hôtel.”)

The recorded sound is clear, with the performers at a slight remove to give the feeling of the hall, allowing some reverberant space around them. The audience is extremely quiet, its enthusiastic applause included at the end of each set.

Some may have other favorite interpreters for individual songs or composers, but taken as complete recital, this recording is hard to beat. It should please aficionados as well as those new to these works.

Fred Cohn, Operanews.com

Editor’s choice

Complete Investment

Simon Keenlyside offers handsome sound and emotional nuance in two contrasting recital programs.Simon Keenlyside and Malcolm Martineau SCHUMANN: Dichterliebe; BRAHMS: Lieder Texts and translations. Sony 75668 and Songs by Schubert, Wolf, Fauré and Ravel  Texts and translations. Wigmore Hall Live 0031

A successful recitalist needs a “face” — the ability to convey not just what is being sung but who is singing it. In these two discs, Simon Keenlyside delivers “face,” and plenty of it. He transmits the sense that he sings not just because he likes the music, or because it suits his vocal gifts and training, but because he is invested in its meaning. Human communication impels the performing impulse: he wants to tell us something, person to person.

If anything, the program on the Sony recital, a studio effort, seems consciously chosen not just to suit Keenlyside’s interpretive identity but to shape it. The sixteen Brahms lieder that form its first half establish a sorrowful tone continued by the Dichterliebe that follows. The recital occupies a realm of disappointment and aching nostalgia, of the contemplation of loves known and lost. The close-in recording reveals the flecks of grit that have crept into Keenlyside’s voice — a moment of hoarseness here, a bit of strain there. In context, these are hardly defects but signs of maturity, helping the baritone project a stance that is romantic but worldly-wise: this is a man who knows all too well the trouble and sadness that life can bring.

Keenlyside shows a mercurial ability to play with emotional nuance: he is able to embody many different kinds of sadness. Take Brahms’s “An eine Äolsharfe,” setting a poem in which Mörike mourns his younger bother, dead at age seventeen. Here Keenlyside’s singing takes on an aching tenderness heard nowhere else in the recital. The climactic melodic strain of the same composer’s “Feldeinsamkeit” anticipates both the finale of Mahler’s Third Symphony and the wistful pop song “I’ll Be Seeing You”; Keenlyside’s urgent legato and the note of yearning in his voice turn the melody into an entreaty for transcendent peace.

Despite the fleeting impurities, Keenlyside still produces, by any reasonable standard, an extraordinarily handsome sound — even more so in the live Wigmore Hall recital. The warm concert-hall acoustic may mask the momentary imperfections exposed by the more clinical studio environment, or perhaps Keenlyside was in marginally better voice for the recital than he was for the recording session. (Floated top notes have more presence, less trace of falsetto in Wigmore Hall than in the studio.)

Whatever the reason, the dulcet vocalism befits the recital’s program, occupying sunnier territory than that of the Brahms– Schumann disc. The opening Schubert set states the program’s comparatively blithe outlook explicitly: “Die Einsiedelei” celebrates the banishment of melancholy in a hermitage’s comforting shade; in “Die Sterne,” the stars become a balm for humanity’s woes. Here Keenlyside’s tone has an almost adolescent ingenuousness, and his phrasing is so natural that the melodies emerge as if unmediated.

But if anything, the Wigmore disc’s Fauré set is its crowning glory. Classical-music singers are not often adept at projecting sexuality; in songs and opera, the sex often seems to emerge in quotes — indicated rather than incarnated. But Keenlyside, in the song “Green,” plausibly embodies a man who wants to rest his head on his lover’s breast after the “bonne tempête” of lovemaking. And even if the waltz “Le papillon et la fleur” is addressed to a butterfly, Keenlyside’s nimble reading carries a hint of seduction — surely the effect Fauré intended.

On both discs, Malcolm Martineau shows himself a keenly sensitive collaborator. He is a master of pianistic color: just listen to the undulating chords that open Brahms’s “Abenddämmerung” or to the evanescent sonorities he creates in Ravel’s Histoires Naturelles. But his real achievement here, akin to Keenlyside’s, is in revealing the emotional core of each song. These guys are the real deal.

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