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Baritone James Gaughan and pianist David Hammond arranged the programme for their Derby Cathedral lunchtime song recital - Derby, UK, 5 July 2019 - in chronological order, not of composer, but of poet. It was a neat idea, that other recitalists could well take note of.
As a kind of prologue, they charted the changing moods of 'Bright is the Ring of Words', from Vaughan Williams' Songs of Travel, establishing the idea of poetry and music living on after their creators. They then moved to three Elizabethan settings, including a robust account of Finzi's 'Who is Sylvia?', but missing a little of the playfulness of 'When Laura Smiles' by lutenist-composer Philip Rosseter.
A group of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century poets followed, though here the chronology got rather confused. The warm lyricism of 'Of All the Tourments' from Parry's English Lyrics, and Sullivan's only Robert Burns setting, 'Mary Morison', were followed by an account of Schubert's 'Die Forelle' in which the rippling piano figures were slightly overbalanced, allowing the mood to darken too early. A sturdy reading of Haydn's 'Sailor's Song' was followed by nicely introspective takes on 'If There Were Dreams to Sell' by John Ireland, and Roger Quilter's Byron setting 'There be None of Beauty's Daughters'.
'Widmung', the opening song of Robert Schumann's Myrthen, lacked a sense of excitement, but there was firmness and determination in another of Vaughan Williams' Songs of Travel, 'The Vagabond', and David Hammond explored a range of piano colours In Debussy's 'La Mer Est Plus Belle'.
Finally we came to three settings of poems from A E Housman's A Shropshire Lad, with Arthur Somervell's 'The Street Sounds to the Soldier's Tread', its lingering farewell undercutting its earlier would-be heroism, and Graham Peel's rather uninvolving 'In Summertime on Bredon'. 'The Lads in Their Hundreds' by George Butterworth was a little too measured, missing the off-hand casualness that normally makes it so moving. As an encore, a vigorous account of Frank Bridge's 'Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind' looped neatly back to Shakespeare.
A well-thought-out programme, but just a little too well-behaved in performance.
Copyright © 14 July 2019