This month, we explore the world of Lieder. What makes a good programme? How should audiences approach Lieder recitals? We talk to today’s leading exponents of art song to gain an insight into a world that can sometimes be difficult for audiences to crack. First up is Swedish soprano Miah Persson:

Miah Persson © Monika Rittershaus
Miah Persson
© Monika Rittershaus

Bachtrack: What criteria do you use when putting together a programme for a song regital?

Miah Persson: It varies. Sometimes you choose songs after a specific language (only German / French / Scandinavian composers) or after a theme ( lullabies / love / chronological order of compositions etc). I also try to use a maximum of four composers each programme and to add some less well known songs by these composers.

What advice would you give audience newcomers to Lieder recitals to help them approach the repertoire? Should performers talk to your audiences during regitals?

I don’t think the audience needs any advice when it comes to how to enjoy the recital. If they have made the effort of coming to the concert, I’m sure they have some kind of interest and curiosity of the art form!

When it comes to talking to the audience during the concert, I’ll leave that up to each performer. Some are comfortable with talking to the audience and some not...

How does it feel to see heads buried in programmes following the text during a recital? Would surtitles help? Should the audience read the texts beforehand?

Hmmmm, tricky question! Since I sing a lot in Swedish and Norwegian, I’m quite understanding towards the audience needing to read the text during the recital. I don’t find it disturbing – you just have to look out for the people in the audience that are not looking down at that moment! Surtitles are not much better since then you have the audience looking over your head to read.  

What advantages are there to the Lieder platform from the operatic stage?

The direct and intimate communication with the audience and being able to use ALL nuances in your instrument!

What is your favourite song/Lied to perform? 

It’s very hard to only mention one song, but I love singing in my own language and songs by Scandinavian composers, since it is so close to my heart!

Which languages do you prefer to sing in?

German, Italian, French and Swedish.

Do you have a regular pianist to partner you in recitals? What are his/her best qualities?

No, I have the wonderful privilege to work with different pianists – Malcolm Martineau, Roger Vignoles, Matti Hirvonen and Joseph Breinl. They are all very different yet amazingly sensitive, with a great musicality and a sense of humour!