One of the great joys of the forty-six miniatures that comprise Hugo Wolf’s chameleon Italian Songbook is the huge variety of interpretations that each number can support. This Wigmore Hall recital was a most engaging presentation, largely devoid of grand theatricality or an overarching concept, opting for a relaxed sequence yet providing a satisfying grouping that allowed reactive interplay between the trio of artists.
Werner Güra, dressed casually in black with an open-collared shirt, was in sovereign voice whether cajoling the ears with his heady soft singing or revealing darker, more forceful hues at louder dynamics. He has a particular way of just flicking-in consonants to great interpretative effect.
This informal approach contrasted superbly with the rather more volatile demeanour of Anke Vondung. Her voice is full of colours throughout its range, and she can modulate from the mellow-velvety to an edgier but never strident quality in a flash. Like Güra, she was also adept at setting up the mood of each of her songs quickly – sardonic to winsome to comedic – occasionally abetting her vocal partner with physical responses to some of his songs, including fun touches, echoed in the sometimes-playful accompaniment of Christoph Berner.
He has great skill in both unobtrusively supporting the singers and also relishing moments in the spotlight, such as evocations of military pageant. He and Güra brought nocturnal mystery and coolness to ‘Die Mond hat eine schwere Klag’ erhoben’ (The moon has raised a grave complaint). All in all, this was a great collective endeavour.
There was an encore that allowed the singers to vocalise together for the first time during the evening – ‘Da unten im Tale’ from Brahms’s Deutsche Volkslieder.