by Rachel Beaumont

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It’s ‘Recital at Lunch’ to you: Susana Gaspar and Marek Ruszczynski at the ROH

Susana Gaspar and Marek Ruszczynski
Recital at Lunch
Crush Room
Royal Opera House
Unreserved, £10
7 January 2019
ROH page

Schumann: Liederkreis
Duparc: Chanson triste, L’invitation au voyage
Rodrigo: Cuatro madrigals amatorios

This was the first lunchtime recital – excuse me, recital at lunch, that I’ve attended since the completion of the Open Up building project. Two differences from the former iteration struck me. At around two thirds full, the attendance was noticeably lower than it was in the days the recitals were free. No great surprise. And, conversely, the building feels much busier, though the Crush Room is still appropriately acoustically isolated; looking through the doors into the Paul Hamlyn Hall afforded quite heartening glimpses of diners eating their lunch and dancers collecting for the afternoon’s Tea Dance.

It’s interesting to see Susana Gaspar back in a Jette Parker recital as well; she was on the Programme the year I joined the ROH, and I have memories of seeing her in the Crush Room back in 2012. I wonder, I guess slightly cruelly, if that feels dispiriting as a young singer, or if it’s only good to have the platform and the practice. I can’t remember clearly enough to describe how her voice might have changed. Today it was fulsome, controlled, quite nicely dictioned, occasionally a touch on the flat side and perhaps a bit generic – but all in all a very pleasant vehicle by which to experience some wonderful music, conscientiously supported by the equally solid-if-not-terribly-characterful Marek Ruszczynski.

I love the Liederkreis to bits and Gaspar performed it very pleasantly, those touches of flatness aside. She warmed more towards the second half of the cycle, making particular successes of ‘Auf einer Burg’, ‘Wehmut’ and ‘Im Walde’. The Duparc was also nicely done; while it touched me less than the Schumann it nevertheless provided ample opportunity to admire the coordination between Gaspar and Ruszczynski. The closing Rodrigo was entirely unknown to me: I enjoyed the determined melancholy of the first two and the determined chirpiness of the second two, and the dusting of Renaissance eyebrow-wiggling throughout. I’m not sure I’d have wanted to hear much more and the lengthy Rodrigo encore tipped me over the edge.

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