Music review: Karen Cargill/Simon Lepper

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Edinburgh International Festival: Amid the current consternation over singers, both ­classical and pop, undergoing vocal cord surgery to keep their careers going – Adele currently the most high-profile – it was a joy yesterday morning at the Queen’s Hall to hear someone who sings with infallible technique.

Queen’s Hall


Never over-singing but always projecting, mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill is an object lesson in the art of singing. With a rare purity of tone throughout what eventually became an overabundance of French song, the flawless control over every vocal line was staggering.

Uncommonly known songs by Reynaldo Hahn were lightsome and gentle, although the bright clarity of Cargill’s tender texts partnered with the unobtrusive, softly toned playing from pianist Simon Lepper didn’t quite make the perfect match. Working their way through Debussy, Chausson and Duparc in similar vein, these chansons were gracefully defined water ­colours of nature and love.

A switch to German brought Wagner’s more philosophical Wesendonck Lieder, linked forever with Tristan and Isolde, the opera he was working on while his muse Mathilde ­Wesendonck penned the five poems. Cargill sings Wagner with natural ease, plundering the depth of emotion below the surface, while the darker coloured German ­sounded more suited to Lepper’s ­unassuming approach.