Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Henk Neven Marlin Christensson Wolf Brahms Proms

Introducing Dutch baritone Henk Neven! Listen to the chamber music Prom PCM3 and hear why he's hot. BBC New Generation Artists are plentiful these days, and some are sadly not very good. Henk Neven, though, is a discovery with genuine potential. 

Listen to the way he launches into four of Brahms's Heine Settings. He can be confident because he knows how to use his voice to make them work. What a bounce he puts into Es liebt sich so lieblich im Lenze!  The voice is weighty, yet leaps upwards, decorating the word Nachtigall so it flies, like the bird. He's a little more occluded for Sommerabend, but opens his chest, breathing well into Mondenschein. He's still young, and needs polishing but the basic material is there.

Neven's just won the major Dutch Music Prize and has the support of a Borletti-Buitoni Fellowship. BBC Young Generation Artists get maximum exposure, but other awards develop their abilities better. I first heard Neven in June 2008, as Frère Léon in Messiaen's St François D'Assise in Amsterdam, in the wonderful Holland Festival production, conducted by Ingo Metzmacher, which later that year came to the PromsThere's lots on this site about this opera and composer, follow the labels.  Neven was the eager young monk who follows the saint around though he can't quite understand what makes him tick. Frère Léon is a demanding role, but Neven was so good I had no idea how young he was in real life.

Read more about Henk Neven on his very professional-looking website, which has audio samples. His agents are Intermusica (photo credit: Marco Borggreve).

Malin Christensson is also a BBC Young Generation Artist, getting top level exposure at the Proms. She's given recitals at the Wigmore Hall  and has recently recorded Werther with Villazon and Garanča, singing Sophie. Read more about her HERE on the Askonas Holt site (photo credit: Sussie Ahlburg).

At this Prom, she sang Alban Berg's Seven Early Songs, an ambitious choice, for even early Berg is an undertaking which singers grow into. Hugo Wolf's Italienische Liederbuch, however, is a gift for Christensson's light, airy charms. Here, she can sing the coquette in Auch kleine Dinge, stretching her lines playfully to emphasize how small her lover is.  She sings the cheeky last line doch eben nicht in dich from Du denkst mit einem Fädchen with lively spirit. Then O wüßtest du, where she negotiates the high tessitura."Der Himmel" indeed.

Listen to Hank Neven sing some of the more subtle songs, like Schon streckt' ich aus im Bett. The piano sounds deliberately insouciant, like a lute. But listen to the words, which have darker meaning.  Wolf's settings do favour the male voice for depth of feeling.  The encores were best of all, Christensson singing the witty Ich hab' in Penna, and Neven Ihr seid die Allerschönste. And Wolf wouldn't be Wolf without the wonderful piano commentary, ably played by Hans Eijsackers.

Because this year is the 150th anniversary of Hugo Wolf's birth, we'll be hearing more of the Italienische Liederbuch, but surprisingly Wolf isn't getting nearly as much attention as he deserves.

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