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HomeOperaNicky Spence, Claire Barnett-Jones, Iain Burnside, Rosalind Ventris

Nicky Spence, Claire Barnett-Jones, Iain Burnside, Rosalind Ventris

Rosalind Ventris, Nicky Spence, Claire Barnett-Jones backstage at Wigmore Hall (Photo Nicky Spence/Twitter)
Rosalind Ventris, Nicky Spence, Claire Barnett-Jones
backstage at Wigmore Corridor (Picture Nicky Spence/Twitter)

Lord, come away! Chisholm, Bennett, Tomlinson Griffes, Rubbra, Vaughan Williams, Britten; Claire Barnett-Jones, Nicky Spence, Rosalind Ventris, Iain Burnside; Wigmore Corridor
Reviewed 22 October 2022 (★★★★½)

Persevering with Wigmore Corridor’s Ludlow English Music Day with an enchanting programme of lesser-known gems, ending with Britten’s second canticle

As a part of Wigmore Corridor‘s Ludlow English Music Day (22/10/2022), for the early afternoon live performance pianist Iain Burnside was joined by tenor Nicky Spence, mezzo-soprano Claire Barnett-Jones and viola participant Rosalind Ventris for songs by Erik Chisholm, Richard Rodney Bennett, Charles Tomlinson Griffes, Edmund Rubbra, and Ralph Vaughan Williams, ending with Benjamin Britten’s Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac.

We started with 5 songs by the Scots composer Erik Chisholm, nonetheless one thing of a uncared for expertise whose songs are solely simply being rediscovered. His GK Chesterton setting, The Donkey (from 1923) mixed Iain Burnside’s vividly atmospheric piano with Nicky Spence’s dramatic narration, the musical distinction between the 2 very placing with the power of the vocal line setting off Chesterton’s gnomic verses. The Offending Eye (from 1926) was one other dramatic piece, given stark supply by Claire Barnett-Jones with superb consideration to the phrases. Barnett-Jones continued with Sixty Cubic Ft, setting phrases by the activist poet Randall Swingler (who labored loads with Alan Bush). There’s a folk-ish inflection to the tune, however the piano accompaniment was extra pointed, that sense of marching together with quotations from different composers. The end result managed to be ironic but completely critical.


Chisholm additionally wrote songs impressed by conventional Gaelic airs. The Braw Plum was a William Soutar setting, given vivid utterance by Nicky Spence, however the Scots phrases required a deal of parsing earlier than the sense got here out. But Spence satisfied together with his great characterisation. House Illness, setting his personal phrases, featured a stunning outdated melody fantastically formed by Barnett-Jones, easy but efficient.

Richard Rodney Bennett’s intriguingly titled A Historical past of the Thé Dansant (from 1994) units three poems by his sister, MR Peacocke, which had been impressed by outdated images of their mother and father. Every tune, in a selected dance type, combines the important rhythmic and melodic components (at occasions in a moderately Waltonian method) with a extra complicated overlay because the poet remembers specific events. This isn’t a lot a descriptive piece as one about reminiscence, and MR Peacocke’s poems are complicated and allusive. Iain Burnside had nice enjoyable with the piano writing with its foxtrot, sluggish foxtrot and tango overlaid with Bennett’s extra edgier writing, while Barnett-Jones captured the character in every tune, from the energetic to the seductive and at last the touching.

The American composer Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884-1920) will not be a widely known title, maybe as a result of his mature model didn’t develop till 1917, leaving him simply three years until his early demise. His Three Poems of Fiona Macleod are actual Celtic twilight, setting poems created by William Sharp in his persona as Fiona Macleod. However there was little of the airy-fairy concerning the music, Nicky Spence gave us a robust, direct vocal line supported by Iain Burnside’s evocative piano to offer us three richly textured songs. The second, Thy Darkish Eyes to Mine was fantastically seductive, while the ultimate tune The Roseof Night time was moderately disturbing. The voice that this music appeared to level to was that of Samuel Barber (1910-1981).

The ultimate three works within the programme all had a component of the spiritual about them, although the three composers, all English, had vastly completely different attitudes to faith. First got here Edmund Rubbra’s Two Sonnets by William Alabaster, settings from 1955 of poems by the metaphysical poet William Alabaster (1568-1640). Rubbra was spiritual and deeply religious, his pursuits extending past Christianity. Right here, he drew a deep mysticism from Alabaster’s dense poetry, writing for voice, piano and viola. For many of the songs, Claire Barnett-Jones’ voice and Rosalind Ventris’ viola intertwined in expressive duet, the one winding across the different. The darkish depth of Barnett-Jones’, giving a robust power to the vocal line, contrasted with Ventris’ sinuous, mellow viola line. Supported by Burnside’s piano, the end result was a pair of mesmerising, critical songs.

Subsequent, Nicky Spence, Rosalind Ventris and Iain Burnside carried out RVW’s 4 Hymns, written in 1914 (for the Three Choirs Pageant) however not carried out till 1920. The texts will not be all, strictly hymns however they’re every spiritual in tone, and poetic hymns of reward within the extra basic sense. Right here the interplay of voice and viola was much less a duet, and extra that Ventris’ viola acted as a form of commentary on Spence’s vocal line. All three performers introduced a beautiful sweep to the opening, and in all 4 Spence introduced out the sense of mystical rapture that RVW was capable of imbue the music with, in order that the songs got here with a really private sense of pleasure.

We ended with Britten’s 1952 canticle, Abraham and Isaac, just like the Rubbra and the RVW, a live performance work that had a spiritual aspect. Britten took his textual content not from the bible however from the Chester Thriller Performs. It’s a extremely imaginative work, and Spence and Barnett-Jones gave us a slight aspect of staging, bringing motion to bear on the work’s drama. The end result was extremely efficient. There was a superb distinction between Spence’s robust, lyric and versatile line as Abraham, and Barnett-Jones’ intensely centered tone as Isaac, with the 2 coming collectively to magically create a 3rd tone because the voice of God. The 2 introduced out the work’s underlying drama and the culminating duet for Abraham and Isaac was vividly intense certainly.

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