Mahler, Debussy, Schumann
Christopher Maltman has grown immensely since I first encountered him at the Cardiff Singer of the World competition. His technique and temperament are ideally suited to the intimacy of the recital. His voice is capable of enormous power and the tenderest of emotion. His programme was the ideal showcase for all facets of his instrument.
Graham Johnson is the most sought-after pianists working in his field. His work, particularly for the Hyperion lieder recordings, is exemplary. He is the master of the keyboard – responded to both composer and performer with equal care and attention to detail. I can honestly say that I have never before heard playing of that calibre in Oxford.
Starting with a series of Schumann narrative songs, Maltman had immediate impact with his willing audience. The highlight was Belsatzar – a demanding setting requiring the full range of voice and emotion. Maltman was more than equal to the challenge – exploiting his talents to their fullest.
The highlight for all in the hall was his performance of the Mahler Ruckert Lieder. More often performed by female singers, this was a revelatory encounter. From the opening bars through to the final chords, we were taken on an emotional journey through the pieces – every nuance was subtly underlined by both musicians. All around me felt that the time was right for this performance to be captured on disc in the very near future.
The second half contained a wide range of French song. Maltman is clearly a talented linguist – equally at home in German and French. He has a natural ability to communicate, not only with his voice but also with his body. It was in the Poulenc songs which ended the programme that this came most fully to the fore. A series of typically witty and quirky settings allowed Maltman to show an affinity for comedy for the first time in the evening. It was the perfect ending.
Or so we thought. A further work by Reynaldo Hahn followed – with some of the most delicate singing of the evening. Again the audience responded with warmth and enthusiasm. A final song followed – a comic gem from Debussy. It left us all fully entertained and convinced that we had witnessed a truly masterful recital.