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The Catch Membership on the Oxford Lieder Competition was a tasty and stunning programme – Seen and Heard Worldwide

United Kingdom Oxford Lieder Competition 2022 [2] – The Catch Membership: Caroline Taylor (soprano), Christopher Purves (baritone), Choir of The Queen’s School, The Pleasant Harmonists, Jonathan Byers (cello) Christopher Bucknall (harpsichord) / Owen Rees (conductor). Freud Café Bar, Oxford 17.10.2022. (CR)

This was a live performance (programme particulars beneath) with a distinction, happening in Oxford’s well-known cocktail bar to recreate one thing of the drink-fuelled, convivial ambiance by which such musical societies because the Catch Membership, the Madrigal Society, and the Academy of Historical Music would meet in eighteenth century London. They didn’t give public live shows as such; somewhat, once they met, it was as an event for his or her members to sing full of life catches and glees, bawdy and ribald songs, or to discover antiquarian repertoire akin to Elizabethan madrigals, or Renaissance church music, therefore the generally weird juxtapositions within the programme chosen for this instalment of the Oxford Lieder Competition. (Freud’s was constructed within the 1830s as a church, and nonetheless has its apse in place, so maybe on this context the sacred music occurred to appear not fairly so incongruous because it in any other case might need been.)

With snacks and a glass of one thing at hand, the viewers have been invited to take part in a few catches (‘Now we’re met’, and ‘A drunken previous sot’) with the 4 singers of the specifically shaped a cappella group The Pleasant Harmonists. With some evidently seasoned singers within the viewers grounding every entry securely, these got here off surprisingly properly, regardless of their three- or four-part counterpoint in canon, as additionally the extra severe canon ‘Non nobis Domine’ by which the three entries are available in at totally different pitches.

Below Owen Rees’s route, the 2 dozen or so singers of the Choir of the Queen’s School delivered fairly expansive accounts of the items of sacred polyphony and the secular madrigals on this programme, tending to be radiant and hovering within the former, however too strong for the latter, which might have benefitted from larger levity. Caroline Taylor gave a powerful rendition of the solo songs, particularly these by Purcell the place her dramatic characterisations have been astute and convincing. John Bannister’s three settings of Ariel’s Songs from The Tempest have been sung with glowing finesse, ending in a model of ‘The place the bee sucks’ that’s almost as fascinating as that by Thomas Arne, while the nameless ‘Begone sweit evening’ acquired an affecting interpretation on account of Taylor’s pure-voiced the Aristocracy that maybe recalled Purcell’s ‘Night Hymn’, written for the opposite finish of the day (not carried out right here however it could have discovered a pure place on this programme).

Christopher Purves supplied ethereal assist within the duets, alongside Christopher Bucknall’s vibrant accompaniment on the harpsichord, significantly within the ornamented introduction to ‘Might the God of Wit encourage’. Purves got here into his personal for an mockingly stentorian, deadpan account of the 4 ribald songs by Eccles, revelling in varied bodily elements and capabilities, and their indulgences, whose texts typically left little or no to the creativeness. Altogether a tasty and stunning programme, very removed from the standard bourgeois or Biedermeier context of a lot music or Lieder repertoire.

Curtis Rogers

Palestrina – Exaltabo te Domine
Gibbons – The Silver Swan
Samuel Webbe – Now we’re met
Purcell – Expensive Fairly Youth; Honest Cloe my breast so alarms; My op’ning eyes are purg’d
Purcell (attrib) – Down among the many lifeless males
Lobo – Audivi vocem
Palestrina – Sicut cervus
Byrd (attrib) – Non nobis Domine
Arne – O ravishing delight
Purcell – Misplaced is my quiet for ever
Henry Harington – I can’t sing this catch
William Hayes – Sir Toby reel’d house
Edward Johnson – Eliza is the fairest Queen
Purcell – Might the God of Wit encourage
Mary Hudson – Applaud so nice a visitor
John Stafford Smith – Blest pair of sirens
John Bannister – Ariel’s Songs
Anon – Begone, sweit evening
Farmer – Honest Phyllis
Wilbye – Flora gave me fairest flowers
Eccles – Upon Port Wine; John the Millar; My man John, my maid Mary; Farting and Belching
RJS Stevens – Ye noticed snakes
George Berg – A drunken previous sot



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