Review: The Sea, The Sea; Poetry and Song, Aldeburgh Festival; Snape Maltings; June 13
PUBLISHED: 18:12 17 June 2019 | UPDATED: 18:12 17 June 2019
A quartet of distinguished performers assembled for this concert: a pianist, two singers and an actor. All well known for their performances in concert, opera and theatre, there was an easy rapport between them and an obvious enjoyment in the words and music that made itself felt throughout the evening.
The sea, the greater part of the earth's surface, is familiar enough on one level but its inscrutability, unpredictability and capacity to wreak havoc have inspired artists of all genres from earliest times. Robert Frost's gentle musing on sea-watching launched the programme, read by Rory Kinnear with an instinctive feel for the metre and mood in this and all other poems. His perfect timing in The Jumblies gave added enjoyment to Lear's words. A number of the poems were fairly familiar but others less so; amongst the latter Elizabeth Bishop's 'I caught a tremendous fish' was particularly striking.
Tenor Mark Padmore and baritone Roderick Williams are well known to concert and opera goers for their vocal dexterity, mellifluous sound and persuasive characterisations. All these were abundantly displayed throughout a varied programme of songs ranging from profound to light-hearted. Haydn could do anything, of course, and his Sailor's song is a particularly spirited and characterful composition that Williams captured with clarity and brio. Gerald Finzi's arresting Channel firing, based on words by Thomas Hardy from 1914 when British warships were practising gunnery off the English coast, was splendidly sung and Julius Drake delivered some thunderous pianistic broadsides.
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Mark Padmore was perfectly attuned to Tippett's Full Fathom Five and gave a dramatic performance of Wolf's strikingly inventive Seemans Abschied with some dazzling flashes of colour from Drake.
There were some real gems on display. Duparc's La vie interieur, his final song before his untimely withdrawal from composing, is a masterpiece and was given a performance worthy of its stature. So too was Rebecca Clarke's dark and unsettling The Seal Man, a setting of John Masefield from 1922.
Both singers came together for superb duets by Mendelssohn and Brahms and Drake's unforced yet exemplary control held everything in perfect balance. Outstanding.