Review: The Prince Consort/American Connections/Jubilee Hall,Aldeburgh. Friday 18th March

Some innovative programming has already been a feature of this season’s Aldeburgh Lunchtime Chamber Music, and on Friday there was a more radical deparure from the established tradition of string chamber music with a recital given by members of The Prince Consort, which specialises in different combinations of voice and piano.

Mezzo soprano Jennifer Johnston and counter tenor Tim Mead, were accompanied by the group’s founder, pianist Alisdair Hogarth in American Connections; songs by established American composers as well as others who had an American connection.

Alongside works by Copland Ives and Barber were songs by contemporary composers; Hough, McCoy,Musto and Rorem.

Jennifer Johnston’s operatic mezzo sometimes seemed too powerful for the Jubilee Hall acoustic, nevertheless she gave a characterful and intelligent reading of five of Copland’s settings of the 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson. As well as demonstrating her wide dynamic range, her warm lyrical tone was most attractive in Sleep is supposed to be, and in the premiere of McCoy’s Lullaby for Mary.

Tim Mead brought a wide expressive range to Ives Songs my mother taught me, and to another Lullaby, also a premiere, by Stephen Hough, better known, perhaps, as a pianist. Mead sang Barber’s lovely Hermit Songs, especially the delightful The Monk and his Cat, superbly.

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The whole was excellently presented, with every syllable crystal clear, and Alisdair Hogarth’s superb accompanying brought this varied programme sharply into focus. If this represents the winds of change, then I for one can’t wait for more.

Frank Cliff

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