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. Our next singer is soprano Venera Gimadieva.

Venera Gimadieva © Leonid Semenyuk
Venera Gimadieva
© Leonid Semenyuk

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

Venera Gimadieva: First of all it depends on what the producers of the recital require. Then there is always certain repertoire I would like to explore. There are many pieces I'd like to add to my repertoire list, therefore I always try to add a new song to each recital programme. 

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

There is such practice when the performer speaks to their audience, it is always interesting and lively. The performer then has a chance to tell the audience more about the history and the background of each song. I am hoping to have such opportunity once.

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?

I fully endorse the idea that the audience must understand what I sing about. There is a side-effect to it, of course, as the audience is likely to miss some musical details. But if the audience hears this music for the first time and loves it, I am sure they will be coming back to it, then their understanding will be deepening. For instance, I am looking forward to my recital with Roger Vignoles at Kings Place in London on the 25 January, and I am glad to say that the audience will find the translation for each of my songs in the programme. I will be singing my favorite Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky. Their songs are based on the best jewels of Russian poetry, I wouldn't want the audience to miss this for the world.

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

Naturally to me the operatic platform is more comfortable and frequent, but I am keen to sing more Lieder recitals as this is a great way to work on the details, both vocally and emotionally.

What is your favourite song/Lied to perform?

I adore Rachmaninov, for his poetic musical background, for his unbelievable harmonies. I cannot possibly single out just one of his songs, they are all beautiful. I also love singing French melodies. I love singing in French, such composers as Chausson, Poulenc, Fauré, Ravel – their melodics are wonderfully romantic.

Which languages do you prefer to sing in?

I love singing in Italian and French. You might be surprised to hear that Russian is the most difficult one for me! Vocally and technically, my mother tongue takes me to a different place and makes it difficult to return to my usual repertoire.

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

I am lucky to have a great pianist for a husband. We perform regularly together. We enjoy undoubted connection and it translates into our performance. Many details we get right without rehearsing, as we understand music in a similar way. When performing live, we often feel each other so well, that we allow improvisation and follow each other confidently and freely. This is the best quality of an accompanist to me, when they "pre-hear" and anticipate my feeling of the music. 


Venera Gimadieva appears in La traviata shortly at the Royal Opera House. Her Kings Place recital with Roger Vignoles is on 25 January.