Hugo Wolf – An Italian Songbook – Milton Court Concert Hall, Barbican.
Behind its modest title, Hugo Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch tells a deeply Romantic tale of love, longing and loss. Roderick Williams heads a hand-picked cast in a new staging.
Few of the great songwriters charged their music with more drama than Hugo Wolf. And for an artist as multi-faceted as Williams – singer, composer, powerfully charismatic actor, and this season’s Milton Court Artist-in-Residence – taking the lead role in this new staging is a natural next step.
Wolf’s songs are usually shared between male and female voices: Jeremy Sams and pianist Christopher Glynn have expanded that out to tell a story and create a whole little world, shaped by the psychological insights of the music that Wolf called ‘the most perfect of all my works’. The men and women of his Italian Songbook fall in and out of love, with squabbles and petty jealousies heard alongside serenades and love songs of great beauty. Like Mozart, Wolf creates characters that are astonishingly precise, vivid and detailed, but also somehow universal. And his tiny scenes from village life paint a bigger picture – a whole world of human frailty, passion and pain.