Sunday, 22 April 2012

Review of the April Concert

‘The whole evening was so very lively, unlike some contemporary concerts I attend … where the audience sometimes seem a trifle disengaged. And the reception very warm, to all the pieces. And the performances superb.’
- Anthony Gilbert, composer
Review: Jeremy Huw Williams / Nigel Foster; Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York
By Martin Dreyer
It takes a fair act of faith to attend a song recital which includes six world premieres, on four of which the ink has still not dried, according to the advance brochure.
Or does it? The thrill of the new never fades. Moreover, the promoters of the York Late Music concert series know what they are doing.
Audiences trust them to deliver quality – and that is what we got in last Saturday’s programme by the experienced and eloquent duo of baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and pianist Nigel Foster.
A relentless thread of melancholy pervaded the evening, reflecting contemporary angst, perhaps, although in truth, since John Dowland’s early 17th century outpourings, melancholy has always been a strong element in British song.
Two song-cycles stood out. David Power kept the accompaniments to his Six Poetical Songs mainly chordal, with spare harmonies, which gave the poetic snatches room to speak, sometimes sardonically, eventually with barely ironic menace.
Steve Crowther’s touching Songs for Fred, inspired by his father’s death, offered glimpses of a Yorkshire life, mainly set to Don Walls’s evocative lyrics. The music was especially effective when reflecting a gentle imagination on the loose.
David Lancaster’s Propaganda, setting two exceptional love-songs by Daniela Nunnari, Ailís Ní Ríain’s Brontë-inspired recitative Mourning Bracelet, Peter Byrom-Smith’s light-hearted sketches of York, Julian Broughton’s haunting Shadow Play, and James Else’s elegiac One Hour all made distinctive contributions to an entertainingly multi-faceted look at the melancholic.

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