Roderick Williams/Susie Allan review

RODERICK WILLIAMS SINGS IN ONE OF THE QUIETEST PLACES UNDER THE SUN


RODERICK WILLIAMS AND SUSIE ALLAN
St George's Church, Clun *****



There were two unusual features about Roderick Williams's and Susie Allan's recital in Clun. One was a performance of the late John Joubert's 2013 song-cycle That Time of Year. The other was what almost amounted to a Beethoven world premiere. As part of his project of performing German lieder in English, and as a contribution to the 2020 Beethoven anniversary year (remember that?), Williams had commissioned Jeremy Sams to make a new English version of the song-cycle An die ferne Geliebte, and in the general post-Covid chaos it turned out that this was its first, belated, public performance.



To the Faraway Beloved worked like a charm. Sams's deceptively naïve choice of English (Williams explained that this corresponded to the artlessness of the original German), set against Beethoven's mixture of tenderness and early-Romantic theatricality, made for delightfully vivid and direct listening. It helped, of course, that Williams and Allan are such generous interpreters. She goes straight to the right colour for each song; immediately the atmosphere is just there, with no hint of exaggeration or effect. He shapes his handsome, sunlit, baritone to each word and phrase, and just as gracefully. Naturally and spontaneously, his gestures and facial expressions articulate each song's inner drama.



That made for a haunting performance of the Joubert cycle; four big, austere settings of Shakespeare sonnets originally written for the Tardebigge Festival of English Song. Well, Clun Valley Music makes a rather lovely successor to that much-missed summer fixture, and the programme was completed with a sequence of Mahler, Brahms, and Schubert songs (plus Vaughan Williams's Linden Lea, in which Williams's voice sounded like smoked oak) and a joyous account of Finzi's cycle Let Us Garlands Bring: an altogether more playful approach to five of Shakespeare's simpler verses. Williams was too tactful to invite us to judge one composer against another; though in such engaging company, I doubt that anyone was keeping score.



Richard Bratby

Popular posts from this blog

Birmingham Opera Company's RhineGold

CBSO/YAMADA review

Marriage of Figaro review