Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sublime Winterreise by Edwin Crossley-Mercer

This was one of the best recitals I've listened to in years.

Edwin Crossley-Mercer was lucky to be given the opportunity to present his first recital in Paris at the auditorium of the Musée d'Orsay. If you looked for the most appropriate place in Paris to organize a  recital of Winterreise by Schubert, it would be there. It's cosy and big enough at the same time and the acoustics is  impeccable. Last year, in that same venue, I listened to two superb Liederabends -- one was with Petra Lang, and the other with Ian Bostridge. Both were fantastic and I knew Edwin could be excellent too if he managed to stay calm and focused throughout the entire Winterreise, which is tough: it's long, it's easy to let one's mind wander away in e.g. Fruehlingstraum, or in Tauschung...

Edwin Crossley-Mercer happy after his memorable recital

Only at the very beginning you could read from his hands that he was tense, but as soon as Semjon Skigin started playing, all those little signs disappeared and he opened with a gloriously sung Gutte Nacht -- that nevertheless felt a tad too controlled. By the time he arrived to Erstarrung he was completely in his groove, totally at ease, and the recital gained on spontaneity -- everything was delicately emphasized and vocally sculpted. At one point you could've felt the crowd immersing in the thick silence and a 'winterreisish' atmosphere he imposed by his singing. Of course, he sang all 24 songs in one go, fully focused on every verse he'd pronounce [impeccably!]. Add to that the freshness and flexibility of his voice and you get a picture: definitely a memorable Winterreise.

The public was visibly surprised: some of us knew he was good, but very few expected him to be THIS good.

Someone from the crowd shouted "Merci!" when he came back to offer us his third encore, and I thought that was so appropriate.  Bravo and merci!  Three songs he chose to sing as encore were Romance by Debussy, Clair de lune by Fauré, and Élégie by Massenet [I must reiterate -- in each of these 3 songs his voice sounded extraordinarily fresh].

Crossley-Mercer is only 28. After his studies in France, he went to Germany to further improve. He already sang smaller parts in various operas: at the Deutsche Staatsoper and the Komische Oper in Berlin, also recently he took part in La Juive at De Neederlandse Oper, I blogged about his debut at Opéra Comique in Paris, as well as his superb Count Almaviva in the new opera by Thierry Pécou in Rouen. But this Winterreise stands apart -- it's huge.

He gave a recital with Semjon Skigin at Villa Wahnfried in Bayreuth during the festival last year, and they will be back there this year too -- on August 12.

Professor Semjon Skigin

I can only hope someone will quickly realize that we have a perfect Pelléas and will offer him the role as soon as possible...

France Musique radio recorded this Winterreise and will broadcast it in two weeks from now, i.e. on Tuesday, May 25, at 10:30 AM (cet)


  1. I don't understand how you can do encores after Winterreise. What is there to add?

  2. Thank you for this superbly accurate description of the recital, which was indeed splendid as I mentioned on your blog when I returned from Paris last night.

    One detail I would add, because I have followed the pair of them since they began playing and singing together, is the wonderful enhancement provided by Mr Skigin, whose romantic soul is such an asset. A singer can seek high and low before finding a suitable accompanist, and Edwin has found the perfect match. Mr Skigin will taking Edwin with him to Saint Petersburgh, his native town, at the end of the "White Nights" at the beginning of July this year.

    The stakes were very high yesterday at lunchtime, but hard work, concentration, passion, thematic self-identification and the desire to give his audience his very best paid off, and the photographs and gestures show just how pleased he was.

    You are quite right; I noticed what you said too, from the very beginning: you could have heard a pin drop; the silence was gripping.
    An unforgettable performance. As you said, this should make a few more people pull themselves together and take note of this engaging eceptionally talented singer and performer, who strives constantly to give his audience what they are looking for; the three French melodies at the end bear out his desire to sing FOR and To those who come to see him. It has been a long time since anyone has heard a man of this calibre.


  3. Will, an encore would be to respond to the crowd's ovations and sing again one or two songs from Winterreise. That's what happens sometimes.
    Instead, this young man thanked the audience and said he would offer one French song (and so he did 3 times in a row).

    Thanks T for the comment. As you say, they really are a perfect match. At the end of that thrilling concert I found it almost touchy to see Skigin insisting to stay behind and let Edwin enjoy his moment ;)

  4. I've had the wonderful opportunity to meet/spend time with this gem at the Aix-En-Provence festival where he made his debut as Guglielmo in Cosi Fan Tutte.

    He is not only a warm personality, but a very supportive colleague, and a SUPERB baritone; I agree with the notion that he will soon be one of the greatest we've seen/heard!

    His voice is one which, although I have not heard in 2 years, I strongly remember and I'm sure has only improved and blossomed since. He is truly dedicated to the art of music, and was an inspiration to me upon meeting him. I'm sure he will be the same for others ;-)

    Having followed his career since Aix, its apparent that he has made slow, yet, important steps, towards becoming well-known. I appreciate that Edwin has not rushed into rep/roles/contracts which would damage that gorgeous voice! He seems to have a sense of interest with his voice... not working off the capital..

    I'm so glad to hear of this success! Wish I were there! Is there perhaps any video of it?


  5. I wish there were; the photographs give a very faithful projection of the obvious happiness on this occasion "extraordinaires".

  6. Didn't I do the right thing in going to see Edwin Crossley-Mercer at the Musée d'Orsay, instead of waiting for the broadcast on the radio, which of course comes nowhere close to the real emotion felt in the concert hall. However, yesterday morning I was furious to hear a "blasé" announcer declare that instead of Schubert, France Musique would be broadcasting someing less "lugubrious" ("lugubre" was the word used) or did he mean sombre? Whatever he meant, I did not relish this sudden decision to remove the Winterreise, a "change of heart" which France Musique has yet to explain to me, and tell me when they intend to put it back on their programme.

  7. This is outraging!

    We should send them the load of "angry mails". The recital was recorded and the recording should've been OK. Maybe they rescheduled it for sometimes next week or so? Did they reply to your mail with something specific? :(

    I'll be back to Paris tomorrow and will definitely call them to ask for clarification. Booo

  8. As yet, I have received no reply, except the automatically generated one, a "no-reply mail" saying that my query is being looked into, which appeared in my mailbox as soon as the message is sent to France Musique).
    I have sent two emails and shall send another and another until I receive an answer. From what I have been able to see on another opera forum, this decision has been very far from passing un-noticed.
    If his recital has been rescheduled, France Musique has not yet informed me or anybody else; I am adamant about that.

    "Booo" indeed!

  9. A friend has just informed me that the recital given on the 11th May 2010 by Mr Crossley-Mercer and Mr Skigin will be broadcast by France Musique this coming Sunday, on May 30th at 19:05 in Ms. Stéphane Goldet's programme "Musique en chambre".
    Wonderful news!

  10. Many thanks for sharing that good news with us! ;)
    Hope the recording will remain available on their website for several weeks (as usual)

  11. Knowing that you have been a follower of Edwin Crossley-Mercer's, I have taken the liberty of enclosing the following links as a result of a recent recital in Cleveland between rehearsals for Don Giovanni in Dijon before he goes to take on the rôle of Figaro in Los Angeles under Gustavo Dudamel direction: