Friday 10 October 2014

Dominic Sedgwick and Nigel Foster at the London Sketch Club

RVW, Ireland, Gillingwater, Strauss, Schubert, Marx, Butterfield; Dominic Sedgwick, Nigel Foster; London Sketch Club
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Oct 09 2014
Imaginative recital from this talented young baritone.

A series of concerts at the London Sketch Club in Chelsea is a new venture which debuted last month. We went along to the second of the concerts, on Thursday 9 October 2014 when baritone Dominic Sedgwick and pianist Nigel Foster gave a programme of songs by RVW, John Ireland, Daniel Gillingwater, Richard Strauss, Schubert, Joseph Marx and George Butterfield.

Silhouettes from the London Sketch Club
Silhouettes from the London Sketch Club
The London Sketch Club is a social club for graphic artists, founded in 1898 and currently based at a studio in Dilke Street, Chelsea. The concert took place in the main studio surrounded by evocative silhouettes of past members of the club.

Dominic Sedgwick - photo Clare Parke
Dominic Sedgwick - photo Clare Parke
Dominic Sedgwick is a young baritone who has recently been appearing in the ensemble for the opera productions at Aix-en-Provence Festival and studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He was joint winner of the Three Choirs Felicity Lott competition and will give a recital at the festival in 2015. He is appearing this autumn at Nigel Foster's London Song Festival.

Sedgwick and Foster divided their programme thematically, each half had a group of songs of travel, war songs and songs by an anniversary composer. The evening started with three songs from RVW's early Robert Louis Stevenson cycle Songs of Travel - The Vagabond, In Dreams and Whither Must I Wander. These were followed by John Ireland's The Vagabond (setting John Masefield this time) and I was not sorrowful from Ireland's Songs of a Wayfarer.

Sedgwick has a fine, vibrant voice with well supported rich tone and a nicely focussed even sound. In RVW's The Vagabond his diction was admirable and this was very much a fine voice well used. In Dreams saw the mood calm somewhat, with Sedgwick shaping the song beautifully. Whither Must I Wander captured the rather upright poetry of RVW's setting, and Sedgwick showed a lovely freedom in his upper voice. John Ireland's vagabond was altogether more lyrical and less swaggering than RVW's, whilst the second Ireland setting was poetically evocative with a finely misty piano part from Foster.

For the War Songs there was more John Ireland, setting Rupert Brooke. The Soldier sets the Brooke poem which includes the famous phrase 'That there's some corner of a foreign field. That is for ever England'. The song was closer to the bluff poetics of RVW and felt slightly rambling but was beautifully captured by Sedgwick and Foster. Blow out you Bugles was stirring but subtle too with Sedgwick ending with quiet intensity. Next in this group came a pair of songs by the contemporary composer Daniel Gillingwater (born 1963) both written very much in an approachable late romantic style, complex but melodic. Say Not The Struggle was evocative and richly romantic, whilst What you are I cannot say (setting Siegfried Sassoon) was attractively well made with Sedgwick putting the piece over with considerable charm.

The final group was from Richard Strauss (1864 - 1949), the first of the anniversary composers. Lob des Leidens Op 13, No.3, was quite a dark song which worked itself up from quiet beginnings into a some passion, all very gloomy in praise of tears. Am Ufer, Op 14 No.3, was quiet calm and intense, as the poet was on the seashore at night, and Sedgwick gave us some fabulously floated high notes. Finally Winternacht Op. 13 no.3, a dramatically vibrant evocation of a stormy night. For me, Strauss's songs fall into two categories the great and the interesting, and these very much fell into the interesting category but Sedgwick and Foster gave them powerful performances.

Despite their varied origins all the songs in this half had a late romantic feel to them and they made a beautiful group. With his lovely burnished voice, Sedgwick could easily have coasted through the songs relying simply on beauty of tone but instead he worked hard and committed himself to the songs, in a way which was strongly involving and thoughtful.

The second half opened with more songs of travel, this time by Schubert. Der Wanderer an den Mond was very much a poetical folkslied, but given a nice swing by Sedgwick and Foster. Der Wanderer was altogether darker and more intense. Foster's highly effective piano complemented the moments of intense passion from Sedgwick. In Wandrers Nachtlied Sedgwick displayed great beauty of tone and fine control. Finally in this group, Die Strene which was a lovely serenade, given a beautifully present performance.

The anniversary composer in this half was Joseph Marx (1882 - 1964). Marx was an Austrian composer who wrote a great many lieder. He remained in Austria during the war and his post-war reputation rather suffered because of this. His Italienisches Liederbuch sets texts from the same source as Hugo Wolf used for his Italienisches Liederbuch but Marx chose poems not set by Wolf. Sedgwick sang three of them. Standchen which had a lovely lyrical melody in a tonal but complex song, sung by Sedgwick with considerable charm. Nimm dir eicn schones Weib set something of a comic poem about how to choose wife, but Marx's setting was anything but comic taking the piece seriously and generating a real head of steam. For me, the setting evoked Strauss but was perhaps edgier with less rich harmonies. Marx's song felt less like a warm bath than some of Strauss's. Finally Wofur which combined a lively piano part with a well pointed vocal line in a witty but short song.

The final group of songs returned to the theme of war with three A.E. Housman settings by George Butterworth, who was killed in the Battle of the Somme. On the Idle Hill of Summer was very affecting, with a lovely climax. Sedgwick combined beauty of tone with a real feel for the words. The Lads in their Hundreds is perhaps one of my favourite Butterworth songs. The words refer to the dead soldiers not returning from the Crimean War but they have a timeless feel to them and Sedwick and Foster did the song full justice. Finally in With Rue my Heart is Laden they closed in a mood of quiet, intense melancholy.

Dominic Sedgwick and soprano Sinead Kelly will be joining Nigel Foster to perform Joseph Marx's complete Italienisches Liederbuch at the London Song Festival on 18 November 2014. The next concert at the London Sketch Club is on Thursday 23 October when the Bernadel Quartet will be performing.
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