Review: Leeds Lieder, Louise Alder, Joseph Middleton, Benson Wilson, Leeds Town Hall, Friday 30th October 2020

LEEDS Lieder’s Autumn Weekend showcased two more superb singers. The versatility of British soprano Louise Alder is illustrated by just three of her upcoming roles for the Vienna State Opera: Puccini’s fallen heroine Manon Lescaut, the perky maid Susanna in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, and the courtesan Giulietta in Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffman.

Alder and Leeds Lieder director Joseph Middleton are already an acclaimed recording partnership; doubtless a driving influence on this thoughtfully curated recital. The soprano’s large and lustrous voice was expertly tailored to the intimacy of Edvard Grieg’s Sechs Lieder and Sergei Rachmaninov’s Six Songs, opus 38.

Alder is such a major talent; equally at home on the recital stage as she is in the opera house. The Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss are natural territory for her voice. So it came as a surprise to learn that this would be her first performance and it was simply glorious.

Not since Lucia Popp back in 1983 have I heard this valedictory work sound so radiant and yet so perfectly articulated. The absence of a soaring solo violin in Beim Schlafengehen (When falling asleep) passed unnoticed, thanks to Joseph Middleton’s exquisite accompaniment.

Benson Wilson, a charismatic young New Zealand born Samoan baritone, opened the first part of the recital with songs by Herbert Howells and Gerald Finzi. The delightful Who is Sylvia? and, It Was a Lover and his Lass were suffused with youthful virility. Wilson’s Maori War Song encore brought the house down. Although described as a baritone the voice has a rich and deep bass extension. He will go far.

by Geoffrey Mogridge