Schumann’s 1840 song cycle Poet’s Love, with its wealth of colour and mood across sixteen song settings of Heinrich Heine’s poems, is ideal for a lunchtime recital. And baritone Thomas Olemans makes a fine team with pianist Malcolm Martineau assisted by the latter’s highly skilful masked page turner/slider. These songs are definitely duets even down to the moving piano coda delivered with sensitivity at the end.
In places Olemans injects a quality of smiling wondrousness into his high notes making the audience feel the gentle personal drama. Elsewhere we got gravitas and fortissimo in the more declamatory numbers as well as pleasing lightness in the faster songs and anger where required. He’s certainly a versatile singer and actor.
This 60 minute concert opened with songs by Niels Gade, a Danish friend of the Schumanns and several of Clara’s songs. I especially liked Olemans’s warm passionate delivery of Der Mond Still Gegangen and the way he and Martineau segued from Clara’s Die Stille Lotosblume into Dichterliebe.
The setting was, incidentally, both attractive and apt with the two performers on a platform in front of St John the Evangelist Church’s carved tracery rood screen so that natural light and the green Trinity altar hangings providing a very pleasing backdrop.
I don’t care for digital concerts in general but it wasn’t logistically possible to get to Oxford this week. It is, however, a real treat to see on screen the live audience there in the church – a great improvement on the recent past and a sensible idea to offer both options.