Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Sarah-Jane Lewis and Finnegan Downie Dear

Sarah Jane Lewis
Sarah Jane Lewis
Soprano Sarah-Jane Lewis, accompanied by Finnegan Downie Dear, won the 2nd prize in the 2014 Kathleen Ferrier Competition and we were lucky enough to catch them in a private recital last night (20 January 2015). For the first half of the recital Lewis sang a selection of French songs, Henri Dupar's L'Invitation au voyage, Chanson triste, Elegie, and La vie anterieure, three songs from Debussy's Ariettes Oubliees (C'est l'extase langoureuse, Chevaux de bois and L'ombre des arbres) and Ravel's Asie from Scheherezade.

Finnegan Downie Deaar
Lewis has a rich, creamy textured voice with great warmth to it, and a lovely evenness across the range. It is potentially quite a big instrument, and it was lovely to hear her singing so fluidly and flexibly in a relatively small acoustic. Though her voice has strong operatic potential, she is clearly a gifted recitalist. She sang some songs from memory and some with music, but she was always alert and highly communicative, with lovely clear French. Relaxed enough on the platform to do spoken introductions to the songs, you occasionally got glimpses of a real personality.

The second half of the concert was more varied, with songs by Rachmaninoff, Frank Bridge and Manuel de Falla. Singing entirely from memory, in this half she seemed more relaxed and natural, so her voice really blossomed. She brought a strong sense of character to each of the groups of songs, differentiating clearly. The Rachmaninoff songs, No Prophet I, Loneliness, The Soldiers Wife and A-oo were all sung in Russian. The pair of Bridge songs were a great delight, Adoration and Come to me in my dreams, whilst the selection from De Falla's Siete Canciones Populares Espanolas (El pano moruno, Asturiana, Nana and Polo) revealed another side to her persona with dark Spanish hues in the voice.

Throughout Finnegan Downie Dear accompanied with poise and the two formed a very strong duo. I was particularly taken with Dear's  panache when navigating the thickets of notes in the piano version of Ravel's Asie.

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