Aldeburgh Festival: Roman Canticle

Roman Canticle, Britten Sinfonia, Aldeburgh Church, 9 June

Roman Canticle, Britten Sinfonia, Aldeburgh Church, 9 June

A programme encompassing works by Dallapiccola and Berio from the continent and Nicholas Maw, Gordon Crosse and Britten from the homeland drew a large audience to this splendid church.

Luciano Berio's Chamber Music of 1953, to settings by James Joyce, bears the hallmarks of the twelve note technique which he had recently begun to study. Mezzo soprano Anna Dennis delivered the words with clear eyed commitment and vocal security. Monotone was almost just that but it left an impression.

Lucy Wakeford gave a sparkling account of Britten's Harp Suite; the bold overture and the beautifully judged ending stood out.


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Anna was accompanied by the (relatively) familiar coupling of flute, harp and viola for Roman Canticle by Nicholas Maw. Based on words by Robert Browning and set in Italy this meditation on human love has some arresting instrumental and vocal writing but total satisfaction proved elusive.

The years since Nicholas Daniel won the BBC Young Musician competition have not dampened his youthful enthusiasm but have added authority to his playing. His exemplary command of technique and mood in Britten's Six Metamorphoses made for a cheerily bucolic Bacchus and an eloquent and self-regarding Narcissus.

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Gordon Crosse's Little Epiphany variations for cello and oboe is based on two themes and has the interesting idea of moving from one theme towards the second over the course of the work. Cellist Caroline Dearnley and Daniel gave a gripping and hugely satisfying performance.

The final work, Dallapiccola's Divertimento brought all performers together in four love songs which double as exercises in sound production. Michael Cox and Joy Farrall distinguished themselves on flute and clarinet to produce a wonderful invocation of early morning birdsong and Anna Dennis produced some thrilling high notes of ecstasy in the final number.

Deeply enjoyable and satisfying.

Gareth Jones

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