Saturday 30 October 2010

Winner of the 2010 Ferrier Awards

On Thursday night we were privileged to attend a private recital by Njabulo Madlala, the winner of the 2010 Ferrier Awards. Incidentally the awards will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of Kathleen Ferrier's birth in 2012.

Madlala, with accompanist James Baillieu, started with a group of Duparc songs. I must admit that I prefer these songs in the female voice, but Madlala's lovely baritone and nuanced way with the music had me convinced. He followed with a Schumann group which included a thrilling account of Belsazzar and a wonderfully narrative Die Beiden Grenadier. A group of Spirituals closed the first half.

The second half opened with a Strauss group. If a male voice singing Duparc is tricky, then male voices singing Richard Strauss is well nigh impossible. I heard Dieskau do en entire Strauss recital, and that never convinced me. Madlala's sheer passion and commitment brought off the first three songs, Zueignung, Allerseelen, Heimliche Aufforderung in a stunning manner. Morgen was less successful, Strauss gives the male voice an impossible task having to come in an octave lower than the long instrumental solo in the songs opening. But I have to admit that my companion felt that song worked well and that I was being too picky.

These were followed by an English group. A pair of Vaughan Williams songs and a pair of Butterworth, given evocative performances. Madlala has a lovely open personality which infused all the songs that he sang. But this really came to the fore in the final group of songs, all traditional songs from his native South Africa. An entrancing end to a lovely recital. Madlala is definitely a name to look out for.

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