In concert – Lotte Betts-Dean & Joseph Havlat @ Bishopsgate Institute

Lotte Betts-Dean (soprano), Joseph Havlat (piano)

Bishopsgate Institute, London
Friday 9 October, 1pm (review of the online broadcast)

Written by Richard Whitehouse

Hindemith Nine English Songs (1942-4): no.2, Echo; no.7, Sing on there in the Swamp
Varèse Un grand sommeil noir (1906)
Schoen Sechs Gedichte von Fritx Heinle (1932)
Szymanowski Before Bedtime Op.49/1 (1922-3)
Schoen Sechs Lieder für Kinder (1927)
Malipiero Omaggi (1920) – no.1, A un papagallo
Casella X-Berceuse Op.35/11 (1920)
Tyrwhitt-Wilson Trois petites marches funèbres (1916) – no.1, Pour un homme d’état; no.2, Pour un canari
Schoen Das Anti-Hitler Lied (1941); Das Heimkehrlied (c1940)
Spoliansky Das Lila Lied (1920)
Schoenberg Brettl-Lieder (1901) – no.1, Galathea

The recently returned lunchtime series at Bishopsgate promises an extensive range of music and artists. This afternoon’s recital was no exception in focussing on songs by Ernst Schoen (1894-1960), the German composer and radio pioneer who for some years resided in London.

Their programme divided into four complementary parts, Lotte Betts-Dean and Joseph Havlat began with ‘Music for Friends’ – two gently laconic settings by Hindemith of Thomas Moore and Walt Whitman being followed by the sombre rumination as drawn by Varèse from Paul Verlaine’s poem in almost the only extant piece of this composer’s earlier years. The settings of Fritz Henle (whose life was terminated by his own hand at the outbreak of the First World War) reveal Schoen having absorbed the expressionism of Schoenberg’s Book of the Hanging Gardens cycle in songs that, elusive and unaffected by turns, were perceptively rendered here.

The second part centred on ‘Music for Children’, with the first of Szymanowski’s enchanting Children’s Rhymes followed by a set from Schoen. Here the inspiration lay in those nonsense rhymes after Russian texts which Stravinsky had penned the previous decade, albeit with an ironic edge rather more akin to Schulhoff’s songs and piano miniatures from the early 1920s.

The third part brought ‘Music for Dance and the Stage’ in the guise of pieces danced by Henri Châtin Hofmann (1900-1961) to Dadaist choreography (recently recreated when this selection was presented in Warsaw) which fairly typified the decadence and provocation of the Weimar Republic’s heyday. Insouciant miniatures by Malipiero and Casella were thus juxtaposed with two of the funeral pieces by Lord Berners, whose Satie-esque whimsy was shot through with an ominousness which Havlat (replacing an indisposed Samuel Draper) realized accordingly.

The fourth and final part focussed upon ‘Music for Politics’, Schoen’s pointed castigation of Hitler and his fervent contemplation on ‘coming home’ followed with a sardonic number by Mischa Spoliansky such as persisted as a Gay Rights anthem long after it had been created. Betts-Dean and Havlat upped the emotional ante in these latter songs, bringing the advertised programme to a close. Time, though, for two more of Schoen’s children’s songs and the first of Schoenberg’s Brettl-Lieder – the soprano’s coyness making up for any lack of sensuality.

An arresting recital by artists who will hopefully perform this and similar music again soon.

This concert can be accessed at the Bishopsgate Institute Facebook page

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