VIAF 2022


The Festival booklet carries bio notes on all performers in its series of events. Local ones as well as those known from previous appearances need little introduction. In this evening’s case, well-known pianist Milica Lawrence has a deservedly highly esteemed reputation as an excellent accompanist. That is not to mention her teaching and concert and concert activities. About Norwegian tenor, I knew nothing except a brief cv. Well, as the slightly adaptive saying goes, in this case, the proof of the pudding was in the singing.

My surprise was how at only twenty years of age, Ian Marcus Bjørsvik, has a clear and comparatively wide-ranging voice, and a very pleasant one at that too. Living in Copenhagen (in Norway, I suppose he would be Björsvik) this young singer has a wide-ranging Scandinavian repertoire not to mention an aptitude for Schumann and is quite convincing in some Italian pieces too.

The opening work was the cycle of 12 Lieder by Schumann and possibly his most popular, namely Dichterliebe, the Poet’s Love, to lyrics by Heine. It is a super-Romantic cycle in which Schumann sometimes subtly and sometimes very openly underscores the various states of mind in a poet’s journey in pursuit of love. It is not always a happy situation, something which is so well-reflected in a good singer’s interpretation, not to mention the important piano part which has the first and last word in every song. The vocal range developed along a pretty smooth path. One could notice beautiful, darker undertones to the voice, the at times shimmering silvery quality of the singing with high climaxes well-wrought, except for a little hiccup in Ich grolle nicht. There was obvious enjoyment in the playing of both musicians which I felt was well-projected. A certain peak in this regard was in the ninth song, Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen with its fluid arpeggio from beginning to end. There were also many allusions to the wonders of Nature and the part this had in a poet’s quest for love. Diction was very good and clear Well, Schumann could feel very close to the sentiments expressed in this cycle because of his own very difficult courtship of Clara Wieck, whom he married in the same year he composed this wonderful cycle.

From Germany, Milica Lawrence and Ian Marcus Bjørvik moved closer to his home with some of Grieg’s most beautiful songs. The little Norwegian giant is a great miniaturist best revealed in his many song cycles some of which intrinsically bear his very own stamp. The first of the four Grieg songs heard this evening was Våren (Spring), Op.33, n.12, in which the singer delighted in the joy Spring brings in its wake, renewal both in Nature and in the human mind and heart. Nature again is the dominating force in Zur Rosenzeit, Op. 48, n. 5. The singer convincingly lost himself in Ein Traum (A dream), Op. 48, n.6. There was an effusion of melody and drama here which is unmistakably Grieg, in a very well-wrought climax. This Norwegian interlude ended with Grieg’s Jeg elsker dig (I love you), Op.5 n.3. It is his most famous song dedicated to his wife and first cousin, the soprano Nina Hagerup. It is really beautiful as was its delivery. One says thank heaven he composed it in the first flush of love before Nina eventually became a famous nag!

From Norway, the music moved south, to Italy with two lovely Tosti classical songs. First came ‘A Vucchella which sounded more Italian than Neapolitan, but, it was nonetheless pleasant. The second Tosti song was one of his most famous, L’Ideale. It was a very convincing rendition. So was the last part of the programme, this time from opera. The chosen piece was Nemorino’s aria Una furtiva lacrima from Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore. This was full of pathos, very appealing and came across with clear diction except that in the well-phrased ”cadenza” one heard “ciello” twice rather than “cielo”.

Albert George Storace