[ilds] Times Online -- Durrell (English Song Weekend)

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Wed Jun 6 03:00:59 PDT 2007

English Song 

Times Online

 From The Times
June 6, 2007
*English Song Weekend*
Hilary Finch at the Assembly Rooms, Ludlow

Potent cider, Shropshire lads, blue remembered hills: you could be 
forgiven for thinking that the English Song Weekend was a middle-aged 
Glastonbury. And everyone who wasn't celebrating Elgar's anniversary in 
Worcester seemed to have landed in Ludlow for what is one of the most 
imaginatively organised and adventurously programmed festivals on the 
English map.

The English Song festival is triennial, so a lot goes on between each 
gathering. This year one of the most significant happenings was the 
premiere of an enticing new song cycle by Hugh Wood. Greek Songs, 
commissioned by the Finzi Friends, sets *poems by Lawrence Durrell*, 
Robert Graves, George Seferis and Demetrios Capetanakis. Distant bells 
ring through patterns of refracted light; a drumbeat pulses with a 
heartbeat; there's a tang of ouzo and bitter lemons in the harmonies. 
Each song reflects its different writer in distinctive accents. Yet the 
language is that of an English response, bending the poetic measure with 
great mobility.

The singer was the baritone Roderick Williams. When he and his pianist 
Iain Burnside join forces, particularly in performing the songs of 
Gerald Finzi, something special happens. Williams's direct, subtle and 
totally unselfconscious way with the words he clearly loves to 
communicate carries forward the music itself with irresistible energy. 
It's almost as if Williams and Burnside were composing the music themselves.

Their outstanding performances of Finzi's To a Poet and Earth and Air 
and Rain framed the new Wood songs and were nicely complemented by a 
revelatory group of Scottish songs by Francis George Scott. Then two 
Edward Lear settings by Victor Hely-Hutchinson, sung with deft and 
tender comic timing by Williams.

This concert was the highlight, but I also particularly enjoyed a 
recital of Dreams and Fancies, given by the mezzo Diana Moore and 
pianist Christopher Gould: an artful programme of Jabberwockies, seal 
songs and lullabies from Britten, Gurney and Quilter, to young Quentin 
Thomas's nicely subversive Three Interludes for a Contemporary Spaceman.

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© Copyright 2007 Times Newspapers Ltd
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