Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Kitty Whately and Joseph Middleton in English song at the Wigmore Hall

Kitty Whately (photo Natalie J Watts)
Kitty Whately (photo Natalie J Watts)
John Ireland, Peter Warlock, Ivor Gurney, Herbert Howells, Charles Villiers Stanford, RVW, Michael Head, Joseph Horovitz, Benjamin Britten, Francis Poulenc,Geoffrey Bush; Kitty Whately, Joseph Middleton; Wigmore Hall
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Apr 10 2017
Star rating: 4.5

A last minute replacement provides us with an engaging programme of English song

Monday 10 April 2017's BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at the Wigmore Hall was due to be given by Sarah Connolly but unfortunately she had to withdraw, and we were lucky enough to have mezzo-soprano Kitty Whately and piano Joseph Middleton providing a last minute replacement. Their programme was based around their recent CD This Other Eden (see my review), with songs by John Ireland, Peter Warlock, Ivor Gurney, Herbert Howells, Charles Villiers Stanford, RVW, Michael Head, Joseph Horovitz, Benjamin Britten, Francis Poulenc and Geoffrey Bush.

Whately and Middleton opened with a pair of songs by John Ireland and Peter Warlock. In Ireland's Earth's Call Whately created an engaging sense of narrative, surrounded by the rich complexity of Ireland's gorgeous piano part. Warlock's My own country by contrast was delightfully folksong-ish.

Ivor Gurney's Down by the Salley Gardens is a engagingly different to the familiar version arranged by Benjamin Britten. Howells' King David was full of lyric melancholy, with Whately really projecting the emotional narrative of the song, and a fabulous piano part which weaves the nightingale's song into the complexity. Stanford's early La belle Dame sans merci is a large-scale piece, and Whately story telling really drew us in here, with some vividly delineated drama from both performers.

Their account RVW's Silent Noon brought out the sense of passion under the calm surface, whilst Michael Head's A green cornfield was charmingly pastoral. John Ireland's Spring will not wait provided a richly coloured piano solo for Joseph Middleton, and Ivor Gurney's The fields are full returned us to the sense of the pastoral.

Joseph Horovitz's Lady Macbeth- A Scena provided a welcome contrast, with Whately's performance both riveting and dramatically acute, giving a fine account of the changeability of the Lady's emotions, brilliantly partnered by Joseph Middleton. Britten's Fancie was charmingly impulsive and contrasted with Poulenc's more lyrical and melancholy setting of the same words. We finished with Geoffrey Bush's delightfully jazzy It was a lover and his lass.

This was a chance to experience again Kitty Whately's winning combination of rich, even tone, superb diction and feel for the words. Each song was projected with a feeling of character and clear sense of the emotional narrative, with pianist Joseph Middleton forming a strongly characterful partner.

We were treated to a pair of encores, two linked Northumbrian folksongs, My bonny lad and Fareweel Regality.

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