Fierce recitals: Karita Mattila at Wigmore Hall Photo: Marica Rosengard.

Fierce recitals: Karita Mattila at Wigmore Hall

John Beckett

When Karita Mattila came bursting through the stage door of Wigmore Hall on Saturday night, we could tell we were in for something truly special. It’s been said that people form an impression of a performer within the first seven seconds of seeing them, and Mattila certainly made a big impression. As she sang the first songs on her program, Brahms’ Zigeunerlieder, the stage was overtaken with a fire that had us on the edge of our seats. This wasn’t going to be your grandma’s Art Song Recital.

Was it perfect? No. In fact, she threw perfectionism out the window. But what she gave up in terms of perfecting the music, she gained in the freedom of her expression. Wild and uninhibited, she switched freely from head voice to chest voice, casting away any notion that she would be singing in a reserved or false manner.

And it’s not to say that she isn’t capable of singing controlled - Mattila’s performance of Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder proved the opposite. The long lines of “Im Treibhaus” seemed to last forever, she has a breath that could last days. “Träume” had her singing at a level of pianississimo we didn’t think possible after the fortississimo of “Schmerzen.”

The broad sound that came from Ville Matvejeff’s playing was equally exciting. Perhaps his biggest job was to make an easy sense of Berg’s Vier Lieder for us, music which, if not cared for can sound random at times. He did so with ease, and showed superb resonance throughout the whole performance.

Throughout the final songs on her program by Strauss, we were beginning to see how much Mattila was giving away during this performance. The end of “Wie sollten wir gehim sie halten” was met with heavy breathing, and as she took a moment to compose herself, we took a moment to realize that we were watching someone put a piece of her soul on display.

Karita Mattila and Ville Matvejeff have been taking this program around to different venues - we highly recommend catching her if you can.

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