Festival Music

Karen Cargill

Queen's Hall

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Keith Bruce

five stars

A FEARSOME Fricka in Die Walkure on Sunday, it was a rather different mezzo who took the stage on Thursday morning. Beyond argument one of the finest singers Scotland has ever produced, like another famous Scots teacher, Karen Cargill is "in her prime". Her recital of mostly French songs had at its heart Claude Debussy's Trois chansons de Bilitis, setting the French literary jape of Pierre Louys, and creating strange, fascinating and erotic vocal journeys, with intricate piano accompaniment expertly played by Simon Lepper, a rare summer visitor to the Festival programme. They were followed by the superficially lighter fare of Ernest Chausson, with waves rippling and butterflies fluttering on the piano, their more familiar form and style married to fine craftsmanship. The programme had opened with the well-known Baroque pastiche of Hahn's A Chloris before four more of his songs explored the composer's range, with The Beloved and The Fountains having particularly exquisite relationship between the vocal melody and the piano.

Four sleep-associated Duparc songs came in a second half, further proving Cargill's affinity with the French language, and building, through the disturbing vignette of Rapture, to the powerful Phidyle, a bridge to the four Wesendonck Lieder of Richard Wagner. Here is a very different sort of musical story-telling and it was not just in musical and verbal language that Cargill moved to different mode of expression too. After the beautiful partnership of piano and voice in In the greenhouse, Dreams made an achingly poignant conclusion to the programme, before an ecstatic ovation brought Cargill and Lepper back for an encore of the Eriskay Love Lilt to send the audience home in a lighter mood.