Miah Persson at the Barber Institute, University of Birmingham

When I was a Birmingham undergraduate over 50 years ago we music students were all on a three-line whip to attend Barber Evening Concerts -- not that we needed any coercion, with stars such as Janet Baker, Gyorgy Pauk, Denis Matthews and the Borodin String Quartet gracing its intimate stage.

The attendance at the latest offering was shamefully embarrassing, though Miah Persson, one of the world's most sought-after sopranos and her accompanist Joseph Middleton did a wonderful job in creating an atmosphere of almost palpable communication.

Persson effortlessly filled every nook of this gorgeous auditorium with glorious tone, sometimes radiant, sometimes bleak. An occasional hardening of vowel-sounds low in the register may have been a side-effect of the unaffected way she actually acted each performance, with Schumann's Frauenliebe und Leben particularly outstanding as Persson took us through this gripping emotional journey from burgeoning love, through marriage, childbirth and widowhood. She stood forlornly quiet as Middleton brought us reflectively to a close.

Attractive songs by Clara Schumann preceded this, her husband's love-offering to her, in a well-structured first half. A selection from Berlioz' les Nuits d'Ete made a slightly unexpected launch to the second half and with Persson singing from the score), before we concluded with items from Persson's native Scandinavia.

Gosta Nystroem's mini-cycle Sjal och landskap was vividly evocative, followed by a group of Sibelius songs in which Persson's diction was almost imploring us to get inside the language. And to rescue us from the Nordic gloom, her encore of Grieg's Ich liebe dich was utterly sublime.

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