A Review of the Recital of English Song, Friday 25th February, kindly written for us a member of the audience, a knowledgeable authority on classical music.
On Friday 25th February, Chapel Arts Centre in Cheltenham hosted a fine recital of English Song, sponsored by the Holst Victorian House (formerly the Holst Birthplace Museum) in association with Cheltenham Music Festival Society. The tenor Peter Martin and pianist Matthew Jorysz led the audience through a selection of English Songs from the first half of the twentieth century, beginning with Gustav Holst’s Vedic Hymns (1907-8) and ending with Benjamin Britten’s Folk Song Arrangements (1943-4).
Gustav Holst’s Vedic Hymns were a labour of love: he studied at the School of Oriental Languages in London and based these works on his own translations from the Rig Veda, after a visit to the British Museum Reading Room in 1899 saw him presented, to his chagrin, with a large pile of manuscripts in the original Sanskrit.
Each half of the concert opened with a set of Vedic Hymns and Peter Martin’s strong delivery and clear diction brought this perhaps unfamiliar repertoire to life, as he successfully negotiated the wide vocal range of these compositions.
Gerald Finzi’s setting of his beloved Thomas Hardy, “A Young Man’s Exhortation” received a too rare but moving performance from singer and pianist, and the opportunity to hear them perform more of Finzi’s songs would be very welcome.
Matthew Jorysz accompaniments adapted seamlessly to the different songs featured, and he took full advantage of the solo piano pieces featured in each half of the concert, with Elgar’s “In Smyrna” evoking the composer’s fond memories of his time in Turkey. The second half of the concert featured Vaughan Williams’ “The Lake in the Mountains”, his last work for solo piano, from the score of the film “49th Parallel”, a propaganda piece intended to alarm American audiences following the exploits of six Nazis stranded in Canada after escaping from their damaged submarine, as they try to make their way to the United States.
Britten’s Folk Song Arrangements were perhaps more typical of what an audience might expect in a recital of English Song. They were however written in the United States towards the end of the self-imposed exile (1939 – 1942) of Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears. Peter Martin captured the nostalgia and artful simplicity of these songs, which provided a fitting conclusion to the recital.
For related articles see:
Holst and India
Elgar in Turkey
Gerald Finzi and Thomas Hardy
Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears in Americahttps://files.webservices.illinois.edu/1748/britten___illinois___1940.pdf