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Anna Dennis reveals reassuring vocal magnificence in music by Bach, Handel and Vaughan Williams – Seen and Heard Worldwide


United Kingdom Oxford Lieder Pageant 2022 [5] – Bach, Elena Langer, Handel, Vaughan Williams: Anna Dennis (soprano), Nicholas Daniel (oboe), Richard Gowers (harpsichord). Holywell Music Room, Oxford 21.10.2022. (CR)

Bach – Stumme Seufzer, stille Klagen, BWV199; Ruhet hie, matte Töne, BWV210
Elena Langer – Love & Endings
Handel – Oboe Sonata in C minor, HWV366
Vaughan Williams Ten Blake Songs – Toddler Pleasure; The Piper; Eternity
Handel – Süsse stille, sanfte Quelle, HWV205; Flammende Rose, Zierde der Erden, HWV210

Accompaniment by the harpsichord grounded this compact, late afternoon recital within the Baroque interval, however within the case of the three-song cycle Love & Endings by Elena Langer (given its world premiere right here) that was to not create any pastiche however quite to introduce an arresting, brittle sonority. She defined that, whereas she usually wrote comedian music, the texts of those three songs are rueful or craving within the case of the primary, ‘The Lover in Winter Plaineth for the Spring’ (setting the well-known mediaeval lyric, ‘O Western Wind when wilt thou blow’). The latter was launched with Nicholas Daniel’s onomatopoeically shrieking oboe, ending with hole blowing by way of the instrument to proceed seamlessly into the checklist of disagreeable climatic phenomena in ‘The lifetime of this world’. The ultimate track was prefaced with a melancholy, meandering prelude for cor anglais, absolutely meant to recall the unhappy pipe track which opens Act III of Tristan und Isolde, earlier than giving method to Richard Gowers’s menacing pounding, and infernal dance rhythms on the harpsichord to accompany Anna Dennis’s fantastically sustained mournful notes, making a resigned conclusion to the cycle which had elicited crisp alacrity from her within the first two songs. Langer’s pithy settings, considerably like Britten however extra harmonically piquant, held consideration for his or her strong musical model, regularly shifting in texture or expression, however by no means searching for to make results for their very own sake.

Starting the recital was a pair of Bach cantata arias, which Dennis executed with reassuring vocal magnificence, the sorrow and anxiousness of the primary becalmed by Daniel’s soothing oboe accompaniment, and the ‘weary notes’ referred to within the second allayed by his dainty obbligato. On the finish have been two of Handel’s 9 German Arias to texts by Barthold Heinrich Brockes, radiantly sustained by Dennis because the phrases converse of wonderment at God’s creation, seconded by Daniel and Gowers’s sprightly assist. In between got here three of Vaughan Williams’s Ten Blake Songs, Dennis’s sympathetic renditions of those beguilingly easy verses aptly supported by Daniel alone (in a pleasant piece of musical family tree, they have been initially written for his instructor, Janet Craxton).

In the midst of the recital got here Handel’s C minor Oboe Sonata, wherein Daniel sustained a usually lyrical, vocal tone, the opening Largo persevering with the pressure of melancholy with which Langer’s Love & Endings had concluded. The intertwined fugal traces of the Allegro have been extra pertly delivered by him and Gowers to deliver out the counterpoint, earlier than melodic sweetness was restored for the remaining two actions.

Curtis Rogers

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