Gavan Ring (making his debut at Wigmore Hall) and Simon Lepper opened their recital with Robert Schumann’s Opus 39 Liederkreis, moody settings of Eichendorff’s poetry describing psychological and exterior landscapes, between-times of day and night, dark forests, wide skies and the Circe-like Lorelei. The demands on singer and pianist are considerable, not least in communicating a vast and intense emotional range. Ring sang with conviction and careful enunciation, growing in power and resonance and with considerable dramatic effect and gorgeously phrased word-painting. Gestures and flourishes embellished the moments of highest theatre.
Following Schumann’s complex melancholy and ecstasy, Ring and Lepper moved to Ring’s homeland of Ireland with two groups of twentieth-century songs. The first, by Seóirse Bodley (born 1933), are captivating settings of contrasting Gaelic verse, and included Cré, which describes the texture of clay contrasting with a swan as it glides in the water, with surprising and beautiful effects in the accompaniment: Lepper was scrupulous and supportive throughout the afternoon. The final group was by John Francis Larchet (1884-1967), who taught Bodley; both combine Irish folk-music and the European classical tradition. Ring’s selection made a persuasive case for their performance and the final Shelley setting, The Philosophy of Love, echoes imagery from the Schumann. The encore, The Kerry Dance, like the Larchet, showcased Ring’s ascending tenor inclinations.