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If you are lucky, a song recitalist will take you to the edge of an inner world. A select few know how to draw you in further. And then there’s Amanda Roocroft. Her peachy soprano may be what we hear, but it is her heart that does the singing. This recital, part of the “Julius Drake and Friends” series at Middle Temple, revealed Roocroft at the peak of her powers – a fully matured artist who combines technical and interpretative control with emotional freedom.
What’s so wonderful about Roocroft, apart from her million-dollar looks and the natural confidence of her platform manner, is that she respects the “outer” demands of line and style – the demands that give much of the song repertoire its chaste beauty – while communicating an aching romantic charge. In the naked arena of a song recital, such sincerity of feeling is only possible from someone who has lived a life.
Rakhmaninov and Tchaikovsky dominated the programme – a good choice, for Russian doom-and-gloom finds extra poignancy in Roocroft’s voluptuous innocence. “Do not believe me, friend” was the pick of her opening Rakhmaninov group, its surging moods profiled not just by her bold dynamic arcs but also by Drake’s spirited pianism. Their Tchaikovsky was even more intense, and yet the striking quality about “None but the lonely heart” was the manner in which art concealed art – one of Roocroft’s golden charms.
Another is her ability to communicate with an audience through a foreign tongue: after the interval her second Rakhmaninov group was less brooding but her body-language just as truthful. There was an operatic quality about “The Soldier’s Wife” and “Spring Torrents” that exposed a hard-pressed top, an impression mollified by the conversational playfulness of “They Replied” and the dreamy blossom of “Lilacs”.
With a rapturous “Ständchen”, the first of eight Strauss songs, we were on the home straight – but in spite of a sunnier musical climate the emotional tide was every bit as strong. It was impossible not to be swept along by the melodic flow of “Heimliche Aufforderung”, and the ecstatic ardour of “Befreit” was overwhelming. Roocroft understands that the essence of the art song is not its outer beauty of form but its inner depth of feeling. She is a national treasure.
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