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An English journey / Frank Bridge songs recital / Wigmore Hall – 26 September 2012

27 Sep

This recital was my baptism of fire as far as the work of Frank Bridge is concerned. Iain Burnside has been championing him in the last few years and somehow had managed to miss attending any of them.

This recital with songs hand-picked by Burnside was a true indulgence and showed the two soloists in the best light. Their passion for the material was evident and it displayed a unique emotional arc from a frivolous and happy lost world before the first world war to the immense sadness soon after. Genteel romantic poetry contrasted with bleak, muscular prose relating to loss and warfare. This recital also included a song by his teacher (Stanford) and two by his most famous pupil (Britten). This historical revision of Bridge’s output is timely with the Britten centenary in 2013 and also because it brings a large swathe of English art songs to a much wider audience. The Wigmore Hall has to be congratulated for its current Bridge series which is both an education for all of us and great nights out.

The two hurt, ghoulish songs by Britten were the most poignant and heart stopping performances of the evening. Tynan offered her voluptuous voice unconditionally to the composer’s trademark biting setting of the text. For the a capella beginning of The trees they grow so high she shared the piano stool with Burnside. It was serene and eased us all in a world of loss and inevitability. The disarming confidence the song was delivered with was absolutely stunning. Despite Tynan’s sparkling stage presence she can deliver pain and suffering with as much ease as she can radiate happiness and bounce. The final lines of this Somerset folk song concludes  in a repetitive woven together growing, growing which was spellbinding. ‘Tis the last rose of summer was equally gorgeous and she delivered some very high lying passages in the second and third verse with stunning clarity.

Her delivery of  Stanford’s La belle dame sans merci was beautifully evocative with lively narration setting the woodland scene. It culminated in an intense nightmarish vision that she expressed in a paroxysm, fitting a romantic poem by Keats. Bridge it seems was not a stranger to high campery as So early in the morning proves, peppered with chromatic bird and water effects concluding what was a mini operetta based on a poem that tellingly came from a collection titled ‘Adventures of Seumas Beg and the rocky road to Dublin’ published in 1915.

One of the most gorgeously simple pieces by Bridge was The violets blue that Tynan sang with a melancholic resignation that was beautifully touching.

Robert Murray’s voice is a text book English tenor sound with a very sophisticated edge (I admired his contribution at a recent Gerontius when he stepped in for an indisposed singer). His I hear the dear song sounding was like a miniature Winterreise, pain and longing encapsulated in four minutes with youthful ardour . He managed a very soft and sensitive middle voice  for Where she lies asleep which was dreamy and beguiling. When singing the more bravado laden songs in the second half he displayed a much more dark temperament and sense of gravitas. The dead/Blow out you bugles was proclamatory and sang against a heavy piano accompaniment creating battle sounds and noble military sacrifice.

As you can tell it was a wonderful evening that makes me looking forward to another Bridge evening next month. Who said art song has to be German to be moving, deep and entertaining?

Some tweets from the evening

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