Friday, June 19, 2020

Wigmore Hall, London

Guest Reviewer, Amanda-Jane Doran

Allan Clayton’s lyrical and powerful tenor and thoughtful, natural stagecraft were much in evidence in this Wigmore Hall recital with his brave selection of Schumann’s rarely performed Kerner-Lieder. These emotionally intense settings of poems by the mystic Justinus Kerner are darkly coloured with themes of personal isolation balanced by solace in Nature.

Between them, Clayton and James Baillieu found every nuance. Whether immersed in mountainous stormy landscapes, deep forest or the green shoots of Spring, the interior drama was so convincingly conveyed. The details were heartbreaking and technically superb. Clayton’s impersonation of the young maid dedicating her life to God as her lover tragically observes her was breathtakingly accomplished. Silent Love led to Silent Tears, Schumann’s towering achievement in this set, high-drama which Clayton endowed with shocking dreamlike intensity. Baillieu’s contribution was at once symbiotic and exquisite. The Drinking Song and those of the Wanderer become meditations on love and loss.

Irresistible folksong arrangements by Benjamin Britten lightened the tone, the gem being Sally in our Alley. I Wonder as I Wander showed off Clayton’s affecting, guileless legato, as did Vaughan Williams’s Orpheus with his Lute.

For an encore Goethe’s sublime evocation of peace over mountaintops, Wandrers Nachtlied II, this time in Liszt’s setting, further evidence of Clayton’s very special dramatic and expressive musicianship.