Interview: Tenor Ian Bostridge and pianist Julius Drake at Koerner Hall on Sunday


Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake (Sim Canetty Clarke photo)

Tenor Ian Bostridge, one of the world’s master art song interpreters, presents a solo recital tomorrow at Koerner Hall with his accompanist of two decades, Julius Drake.

It’s a very serious German programme of Lieder by two composers whose lives were closely intertwined: Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann.

I spoke to London-based Drake yesterday, who accompanied Canadian baritone Gerald Finley at Alice Tully Hall in Manhattan on Monday, and Ian Bostridge in Ithaca last night.

In the course of the interview, he mentioned that, of all the many singers he has worked with over the years, Bostridge is the only one who chooses his recital programs all by himself. Usually it’s more of a back-and-forth between singer and accompanist. (At the other end of the collaborative spectrum is Malcolm Martineau telling me how he does all the programming for mezzo Susan Graham.)

“I’m passionate about programming,” said Drake, who admitted that he and Bostridge will usually do some shuffling of songs once the rehearsal process is started.

I asked Drake if his solo disc, Songs Without Words, released by ATMA Classique last spring, might be a sign that he is interested in doing a bit more solo work.

“Absolutely not,” he replied. “I was flattered to be asked, but it’s no coincidence that the disc’s title is Songs Without Words.”

The album is an intimate treat, and is well work sampling at the ATMA website (click on the album title, above).

Much of the rest of what Drake and I spoke about is, I’ve discovered, included on a video interview prepared last week in Amsterdam, which I’ve included below.

For full details on tomorrow’s recital, click here.

Here are Bostridge and and Drake last week — a short interview at Bimhuis Amsterdam for VPRO Vrije Geluiden, followed by Schumann’s Mein Wagen rollet langsam, Op. 142, No. 4, which is on tomorrow programme:

This English song has nothing to do with tomorrow’s recital, but I just love it so much: Benjamin Britten’s setting of Louis McNeice’s poem, “Cradle Song for Eleanor,” about someone gazing down at his lover during a difficult time. (Graham Johnson is Bostridge’s accompanist):

Sleep, my darling, sleep;
The pity of it all
Is all we compass if
We watch disaster fall.
Put off your twenty-odd
Encumbered years and creep
Into the only heaven,
The robbers’ cave of sleep.

The wild grass will whisper,
Lights of passing cars
Will streak across your dreams
And fumble at the stars;
Life will tap the window
Only too soon again,
Life will have her answer –
Do not ask her when.

When the winsome bubble
Shivers, when the bough
Breaks, will be the moment
But not here or now.
Sleep and, asleep, forget
The watchers on the wall
Awake all night who know
The pity of it all.”

John Terauds

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