Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu returned two days after their highly successful performance of Winterreise to perform Schubert’s equally popular song cycle, Die schöne Müllerin. For the now expectant audience, they did not fail to disappoint.
What impresses me most about Farnsworth is his sensitivity towards the music. All too regularly Schubert’s songs are performed in a brutal manner, but Farnsworth was intelligently able to shift from an operatic mindset – one, which given his recent engagements, he is well accustomed to – to a more intimate chamber music one.
Farnsworth cuts a commanding figure on stage, but it is through the dramatic variety of dynamics and colour in his voice that the listener is drawn in.
Baillieu, his pianist, delivered tremendous balance in his playing and was able to produce an almost symphonic force when required, but his quieter playing was expertly controlled.
The piano accompaniment is just as demanding as the solo baritone part, but Baillieu was well equipped both technically and musically. Clearly well acquainted with the score, he produced some inventive nuancing that enhanced many of Schubert’s textures.
As an ensemble the pair demonstrated a strong rapport, and their matching enjoyment was there for all to see. The audience responded with a deserved rousing ovation.