Thursday 22 July 2021

The Call: six young artists showcased in the first recital disc from Momentum

The Call - Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Faure, Debussy, Hahn, Poulenc, Meirion WIlliams, Howells, RVW, Britten, Gurney and Rachmaninov; Martha Jones, Laurence Kilsby, Angharad Lyddon, Madison Nonoa, Alex Otterburn, Dominic Sedgwick, Malcolm Martineau; Stone Records

The Call
- Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Fauré, Debussy, Hahn, Poulenc, Meirion WIlliams, Howells, RVW, Britten, Gurney and Rachmaninov; Martha Jones, Laurence Kilsby, Angharad Lyddon, Madison Nonoa, Alex Otterburn, Dominic Sedgwick, Malcolm Martineau; Stone Records

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 21 July 2021 Star rating: 4.5 (★★★★½)
The first disc from the initiative supporting younger artists showcases the song talents of six singers in lieder, French chanson, and English song with excursions to Wales and Russia

Barbara Hannigan's Momentum: Our Future, Now has been very active in the last 18 months encouraging support for young artists via the active creation of performances opportunities. Now the first recording arising from the initiative has come out.

The Call on Stone Records features six Momentum artists, Madison Nonoa (soprano), Martha Jones (mezzo-soprano), Angharad Lyddon (mezzo-soprano), Laurence Kilsby (tenor), Alex Otterburn (baritone) and Dominic Sedgwick (baritone) along with Malcolm Martineau (piano) in songs by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Fauré, Debussy, Hahn, Poulenc, Meirion Williams, Howells, RVW, Britten, Gurney and Rachmaninov, recorded at Snape Maltings with the support of Britten Pears Arts.

It should be emphasised that the term Young Artists is to some extent unfair. All early-career performers, between them they have considerable experience yet in the present climate, with limited opportunities available, are in danger of being squeezed out. And this is just what Momentum seeks to remedy. 

A number of them have popped up on our radar recently, Angharad Lyddon and Alex Otterburn were in The Grange Festival's production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream [see my review], Laurence Kilsby was in the Opera North/Leeds Playhouse production of Sondheim's A Little Night Music [see my review]. We saw Dominic Sedgwick performing Bach with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment last year [see my review], as well as catching him both as a Jette Parker Young Artist at Covent Garden and right back to his impressive account of the title role in Britten's Owen Wingrave for British Youth Opera in 2016. And Martha Jones was in English Touring Opera's production of Bach's St John Passion last year [see my review].

The disc begins with Schubert, Schumann and Brahms, before moving on to French song and then, with a brief but striking excursion to Wales we end up in England with Russia as a sort of coda. It makes for a satisfying programme and the singers are sufficiently varied, so that we have an engaging variety of approaches.

Dominic Sedgwick begins things in exuberant style with Schubert's Fischerweise performed with firm voice and delightful vigour. Madison Nonoa sings Schubert's Im Frühling with a gorgeous, shapely line and plenty of character both in voice and piano. Laurence Kilsby is intense and focussed in Schumann's Mein schöner Stern, allowing the song to slowly unfold. Sedgwick returns for Brahms' An eine Aolsharfe, lyrically flowing with a lovely freedom to his upper register. Martha Jones brings the German-language group to a close with Schumann's Auftrage, engagingly impulsive with a bright, vibrant voice.

Alex Otterburn brings out the Offenbachian overtones to Fauré's Le papillon et le fleur, making us all sway sympathetically. Martha Jones makes Debussy's La flûte de Pan flow with a lovely naturalness, the language seemingly fluid yet vibrant. Angharad Lyddon brings out the seductive nature of Hahn's L'heure exquise, combining a feeling of slow unfolding with highly concentrated tone. Madison Nonoa is similarly langorous in Debussy's C'est l'extase, but characterful too. Laurence Kilsby sing Poulenc's Deux poèmes de Louis Aragon. In the first, 'C', we feel that voice, timbre, and tone are in complete sympathy with the xong, not to mention his beautifully floated top. Then in the tiny but tricky 'Fêtes galantes' we cannot but be impressed by his miraculous patter, yet it is fun too. Alex Otterburn returns with more Fauré, this time Notre amour and again with a just rightness to the performance, a slight throw-away element to the lines but fluidity too.

Meirion Williams was a Welsh composer and pianist, studying with Walford Davies. His Welsh-language song Gwynfyd (Paradise) is sung by Angharad Lyddon, combining a vibrant sense of line with a lovely calmness and rich amplitude of tone. (And I have to confess that when first listening blind, wondered whether the song was Russian!).

Martha Jones' approach to Howells' King David has a lovely story-telling immediacy, with her vibrato bringing great character to the line. Dominic Sedgwick gives firm focus to RVW's The Call, again with a lovely immediacy of tone. Sedgwick takes his time, and allows the words to really count. Angharad Lyddon's poised account of RVW's Silent Noon is very concentrated, with good words too. It was fascinating hearing Britten's The Choirmaster's Burial as out of context (ie away from the rest of Winter Words) the Peter Grimes-ish hints in the music really come over and Laurence Kilsby sings the song with a lovely vibrant line. Alex Otterburn gives Gurney's Sleep with finely strong tone, yet also a feeling of expansiveness.

We have two of Britten's folk-song arrangements. I have to confess that I have never been fond of his version of The Last Rose of Summer, but Marion Nonoa performs it with great subtlety, whilst Martha Jones sings Early One Morning with delicacy and immediacy.

Lastly as a sort of closing nocturne, we have Rachmaninov's In the Silent Night, a slightly strange choice for the final song but I have no doubts about Alex Otterburn's performance, his sense of line and the way he brings out the underlying melancholy whilst allowing the moments of unbridled passion to appear.

Throughout Malcolm Martineau provides admirable support, companionship and mentorship. Throughout my notes I have remarks about the strong character her brings to the piano playing, whatever the style, as well as the feeling of partnering the singing, sharing the performance.

The disc is a great showcase for all concerned, but those planning it must be complimented on the way that they have also created an engaging recital. And we look forward to the next step from each performer.

FRANZ SCHUBERT (1797-1828) - Fischerweise
ROBERT SCHUMANN (1810-1856) - Mein schöner Stern
JOHANNES BRAHMS (1833-1897) - An eine Äolsharfe
GABRIEL FAURÉ (1845-1924) - Le papillon et la fleur
CLAUDE ACHILLE DEBUSSY (1862-1918) - La flûte de Pan
REYNALDO HAHN (1874-1947) - L’heure exquise
FRANCIS POULENC (1899-1963) - Deux poèmes de Louis Aragon (Louis Aragon)
GABRIEL FAURÉ - Notre amour
MEIRION WILLIAMS (1901-1976) - Gwynfyd
HERBERT HOWELLS (1892-1983) - King David
RALPH VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) - The Call
BENJAMIN BRITTEN (1913-1976) - The Choirmaster’s Burial
IVOR GURNEY (1890-1937) - Sleep
Arr. BENJAMIN BRITTEN - The Last Rose of Summer
Arr. BENJAMIN BRITTEN - Early One Morning
SERGEI RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) - In the Silent Night
Madison Nonoa (soprano)
Martha Jones (mezzo-soprano)
Angharad Lyddon (mezzo-soprano)
Laurence Kilsby (tenor)
Alex Otterburn (baritone)
Dominic Sedgwick (baritone)
Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Recorde at the Britten Studio, Snape Maltings, 8-9 December 2020
STONE RECORDS 5060192781076 1CD [63:09]

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