Programme to include:
Vaughan Williams On Wenlock Edge
Britten Who are these Children?
Schubert Selected lieder from Die Schöne Müllerin
Schumann Selected lieder from Dichterliebe
Mark Wilde was born in Scotland and was a chorister at Dundee Cathedral. He went on to study at the University of East Anglia and the Royal College of Music. In 2000 Mark made his Glyndebourne debut as Ferrando in Così fan Tutte . He has performed with English National Opera, Glyndebourne Touring Opera, Opera North, Birmingham Opera Company, City of Birmingham Opera, WNO, and at the BBC Proms.
David Owen Norris is one of the most innovative and brilliant pianists of our generation and the pianist of choice for many world-class singers.
After a weekend of recitals dedicated to folk inspirations and influences, Mark Wilde and David Owen Norris present a programme in a similar vein, but with influences a little closer to home. To begin with, Schubert’s Die schone Mullerin presents a rather solmen and pastoral setting of the poetry of Müller, taken from Poems from the posthumous papers of a wandering horn-player. He wrote the work during a period of great personal angst, in 1823, but this does not translate fully into the music. Rather, the music is much more reflective in nature, a far cry from the turmoil the composer must surely have been experiencing in the wake of being diagnosed with syphilis.
Mark Wilde’s interpretation of the songs is also suitably somber, and gives a clear and ascetically pure sound which works well with David Owen Norris intuitive performance on the piano. Both men get to the heart of the music well, and challenge the listener with a dramatic portrayal of Schumann’s wandering lonely heart.
To follow, it was almost a certainty that in a weekend where folk music was so important that we would at some point be treated to one of Vaughan Williams’ works, and here it is- On Wenlock Edge. Often performed with String Quartet as well as piano, the piece is settings of poems by A E Houseman from his collection A Shropshire Lad. The music contains much of Vaughan Williams’ pastoral style, but not yet fully formed perhaps. At this stage in his life he is still influenced by the impressionist world, in particular Ravel with whom he spent time studying with in Paris. But his homeland does make appearances in flavoring the music, and the piece is certainly a triumph. Again Wilde and Owen Norris create the atmosphere Vaughan Williams is looking to bring to life, the English countryside, and Wilde’s tender approach to much of the music also conjures up a sense of ‘sonic’ nostalgia for a bygone time.
After the Interval we are treated to perhaps one of Britten’s lesser known works “Who are these Children?”, the title being inspired by a wartime photograph of children watching a hunt through a devastated village. Britten was a composer who for the most part wore his heart on his sleeve; and although his music is at times harsh to the ear, this is juxtaposed with a firm grasp of the English musical tradition, as well as great technical control over the harmony and the instruments for which he is writing. The piece could perhaps be seen in line with other works by Britten, particularly his War Requiem. The tone of the music is grave and sincere, almost an essay on the emotional hardships of war and their effect on society, in particular through the eyes of a child. The piece is in some ways like a twisted lullaby, indeed movements are named such as Nightmare and Bedtime allude to a more innocent time. The work also calls for the tenor to use a Scottish dialect, and this is handled well by Wilde, as is the tumultuous piano part performed by Owen Norris with precise technical flair.
To end we go back to a similar world inhabited by Schubert’s Die Schone Mullerin; Robert Schumann’s Lieder from Dichertliebe sees another tortured soul wrestling with his love interests and inner turmoil, written at a time when the composer was wooing his beloved Clara. Sixteen songs in all, we hear the final seven in this recital. The songs are much more dramatic and direct than Schubert’s, and encompass perhaps a much more emotional palette. The Old Angry Songs, the finale of the work, is a beautiful and heart wrenching work, with a fantastic performance by both men, particularly in the closing bars of the work where Owen Norris manages to achieve a stillness and calmness after the journey they have been on.
An excellent performance by both men, even more so when we consider that Mark Wilde had to stand in at the last minute for Tenor Philip Langridge. The afternoon is certainly one of the festival’s great successes, an excellent tribute to Peter Pears, and a fine way to end off the weekend in style.