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Martha Guth

John Gilhooly, Christine Brewer, Hilary Finch, Robert Holl, Graham Johnson, Dr Ralph Kohn,  Brian McMaster, Ann Murray, Richard Stokes

2007 Competitors


1st Prize – Martha Guth - soprano / Spencer Myer - piano
2nd Prize – Robin Tritschler - tenor / Francois Salignat - piano
3rd Prize – Ben Johnson tenor / James Southall - piano
Katherine Broderick
– soprano  / Jonathan Beatty -  piano
Matthew Rose – bass / Gary Matthewman -  piano

Pianist’s Prize – Joseph Middleton performing with Katherine Bond, Catherine Hopper, Clara Mouriz and Julia Sporsen
Duo Prize – Daniel Johannsen - baritone and Elena Larina - piano

Semi - Finalists
Jenifer O’Loughlin – soprano / Chanda Vanderhart - piano
Anna Stephany –mezzo soprano / Jonathan Beatty - piano
Adrian Ward – tenor / Annabel Thwaite - piano
Amanda Forsythe – soprano / Gary Matthewman -  piano
Daniel Johannsen – tenor / Elena Larina -  piano
Erica Eloff – soprano / James Baillieu -  piano
Shigeko Hata – soprano / Karolos Zouganelis -  piano


Jennifer Black soprano (US)
John Reid piano (UK)

Katherine Bond soprano (UK)
Joseph Middleton piano (UK)

Katherine Broderick soprano (UK)
Jonathan Beatty piano (UK)

Steven Ebel tenor (USA)
Wilson Southerland piano (USA)

Joshua Ellicott tenor (UK)
Gary Matthewman piano (UK)

Erica Eloff soprano (South Africa)
James Baillieu piano (South Africa)

Raphael Favre tenor (Switzerland)
Pauliina Tukiainen piano (Finland)

Amanda Forsythe soprano (US)
Gary Matthewman piano (UK)

Andrew Goodwin tenor (Australia)
Daniel de Borah piano (Australia)

Martha Guth soprano (Canada/US)
Spencer Myer piano (US)

Shigeko Hata soprano (Japan)
Karolos Zouganelis piano (Greece)

Jared Holt baritone (New Zealand)
James Longford piano (UK)

Joshua Hopkins baritone (Canada)
Jerad Mosbey piano (US)

Catherine Hopper mezzo-soprano (UK)
Joseph Middleton piano (UK)

Daniel Johanssen tenor (Austria)
Elena Larina piano (Russia)

Ben Johnson tenor (UK)
James Southall piano (UK)

Celeste Lazarenko soprano (Australia)
Annabel Thwaite piano (UK)

Daniela Lehner mezzo-soprano (Austria) *
Jose Luis Gayo piano (Spain)

Maria Matyazova soprano (Russia)
James Baillieu piano (South Africa)

Lars Møller baritone (Denmark)
Christian Westergaard piano (Denmark)

Clara Mouriz mezzo-soprano (Spain)
Joseph Middleton piano (UK)

Jennifer O’Loughlin soprano (US)
Chanda Vanderhart piano (US)

Cosimo Oppedisano baritone (Canada)
Marie-Eve Scarfone piano (Canada)

Emilio Pons tenor (Mexico)
David Serebrjanik piano (Uzbekistan)

Matthew Rose bass (UK)
Gary Matthewman piano (UK)

Ryan de Ryke baritone (USA)
Daniela Candillari piano (Slovenia)

Jonathan Sells baritone (UK)
Ja Yeon Kang piano (Korea)

Alexandra Sherman soprano (Australia/UK) *
Gary Matthewman piano (UK)

Julia Sporsen soprano(Sweden)
Joseph Middleton piano (UK)

Anna Stephany mezzo-soprano (UK/France)
Jonathan Beatty piano (UK)

Robin Tritschler tenor (Ireland)
Francois Salignat piano (France)

Adrian Ward tenor (UK)
Annabel Thwaite piano (UK

* withdrawn due to illness



Wigmore Hall / Kohn Foundation
International Song Competition 2007

2nd – 6th September 2007

Sitting through the three public stages of this competition – some 14 hours of music – certainly brought home just how subtle and varied an art form is "song".  It’s that mysterious blend of poetry and music that creates a whole that is often greater than the sum of its parts.   There are no costumes, scenery or props, the singer must use just the colour and timbre of the voice to reach out to and captivate their audience.  And of course, this being a competition, choice of a carefully constructed programme to show the singer and pianist to greatest advantage was a pre-requisite.  

Soprano Martha Guth emerged as the eventual, and in my opinion, fully deserved winner.  She is a veteran of the competition, having taken part on two previous occasions and being the 3rd prize winner in 2003.  Her voice is beautifully controlled, right through the register, with an absolute purity and clarity of tone.  With wide ranging programme choices she was outstanding in all three stages of the competition.  Her readings of Messiean’s Resurrection in the preliminary round and Berlioz’s La mort d’Ophelie in the semi-final were particularly memorable.  In the final she made complete sense of Poulenc’s difficult Mon cadaver est doux comme un gant, and she left the audience with two songs by Richard Strauss, sung with the greatest of finesse.  Her pianist, Spencer Myer, was certainly her equal and many would have nominated him for the pianist’s prize.

Second prize went to Robin Tritschler, a tenor who is already a favourite with Wigmore Hall audiences. A highly polished performer and good communicator singing very skilfully chosen programmes; with Manuel Rosenthal’s Le souris d’Angleterre  he drew spontaneous applause, despite it being in the middle of programme.  Again he had a very fine and sensitive pianist in Francois Salignat.

The Third prize winner, another tenor and the youngest competitor, Ben Johnson, is enormously talented with a real instinct for the art of song. I very much enjoyed his Bellini and Schubert songs in the early rounds and in the final he set his similarly young pianist (James Southall) a stiff challenge in choosing some of the most difficult accompaniments with five Wolf liede. Johnson is a very exciting prospect for the future and I shall be looking out for the duo’s future appearances. 

The two remaining finalists are also names to note, Katherine Broderick and Matthew Rose, both with big operatic voices, imposing stage presence and their careers already set fair.  But this was a song competition not a singing competition, and on the night neither quite managed to distil their performances to the more intimate level required for the concert platform. 

The Duo prize went to Daniel Johannson and Elena Larina – whose really polished, classically styled performances were clearly deeply committed.   Maybe they would have benefited by including something to lighten the general mood, and they missed out on the final by what I would guess to have been a narrow margin. 

The Accompanist’s Prize was awarded to Joseph Middleton who performed with four singers, which perhaps gave him an edge of advantage with the jurors.

As always, on such occasions, there were a number of individual songs that caught the attention, and are worthy of mention.  So, in alphabetical order:

Joshua Ellicott, with nicely controlled presentation throughout his programme, but Faure’s Prison specially seemed to suit him.

Erica Eloff, making a lovely duo with fellow South African James Baillieu, ended with a very attractive little Afrikaans song (Roode’s Oktobermaand) - indeed the tune was so catchy that one of the jury members could be heard humming it, quite sub-consciously, in the ladies loos during the following interval. 

Catherine Hopper is a mezzo who commands attention – Barber’s Nocturne showed off all the gloss in her voice in a quite sultry performance.

Soprano Maria Matyazova was at her best with Shostakovich’s Kreutzer Sonata nimbly negotiating the words which are a real tongue twister even for a native Russian speaker.

Adrian Ward, in a competition stuffed with good tenors, was unlucky to have missed out on the final.   Clearly a sensitive interpreter with lovely super-clear diction and an engaging manner, he made Britten’s At the railway station, Upway a perfect choice for him.

Serena Fenwick

Additional comments:

This competition is judged cumulatively on all stages, the first being audition by promo CDs, to which the audiences were not privy. Our specialist reviewer was (probably) the only critic to hear everyone who sang at Wigmore Hall.

My additional remarks are based on the finals plus just one of the preliminary sessions. From that, I was disappointed that Amanda Forsythe did not progress a little further.

Programme content was probably of more concern to me than for some members of the jury. Forsythe's included some of the few instances of modern harmony - Messiaen's - in a week of mainly very traditional fare. In the finals, Robin Tritschler's sequence was outstanding for its intelligence and balance; I should have been content if he had been overall winner, whilst having been underwhelmed by him on the Monday afternoon.

Of the two "heavy weights" I felt that Katherine Broderick did indeed misjudge the situation (and those who had enjoyed her elsewhere felt that she was not in best voice; some of these singers were under professional pressures elsewhere during the competition week). I feared for the jury up in the gallery; some of them might have been reaching for earmuffs.

Not so, however, with Matthew Rose, who was splendidly resonant heard from the allocated critics' seats at the back (often the best for sound) but not overdone. He did well by the Don (Chaliapin didn't make it for the film with Ravel's settings) and ended with a powerfully expressive account of the Brahms Serious Songs.

But yes, I was captivated by Martha Guth, who did not risk being "Shut out of Heaven" by singing too loud! Her partner Spencer Myer found exactly the right tone to support her in two of the Coplands, making one wish to hear her in the whole lovely cycle (recently enjoyed in its entirety at St Gabriel's Church, Pimlico).

In Ravel's Kaddisch my neighbour found Muth's French deficient; actually she was singing it in Hebrew! There, Tyler placed to perfection the sparse notes which were all that Ravel wanted to accompany the cantillation. Guth and Myer judged everything perfectly throughout their half hour, with moments of sheer magic in which the piano seemed not to have hammers and the music floated free of bar lines, one's only small question whether Martha Guth was a little economical with consonants?

One interest in this competition was how opinions shared amongst the audience changed, during the week and during the finals themselves. I was disappointed by the third prizewinner (currently being acclaimed as BYO's Albert Herring) and would have favoured the bass. Feeling tired myself at the end of a long hard day, I had been tipped off that I had no need to stay for the second half; had I taken that advice I should have missed two of my three ultimately preferred musicians! At the end, there was unanimous approval of the Jury's decision, leaving us all eager to hear Martha Guth and her partner back in London from across the ocean.

But, after all, one must remember that the world of singing is all swings and roundabouts, and some of those unplaced may make it whilst others get soon forgotten; how many names do you recognise from the list of participants in 2001, at the last competition in this series which I attended? No 1st prize was awarded that time, but the audience's favourite, Measha Brueggergosman, has gone on to great things.

All of us who were at Wigmore Hall during last week will be following the winners and some of the runners up with keen interest. My only wish for next time is that the repertoires chosen will count for more - several of the 20th C composers were represented only by their earlier and not too radical songs - and that participants pay more attention to our now being well into a second century since most of the music heard in 2007...


For a very different personal appraisal do read the critic from The Times, who would have wished Ben Johnson to have won; each of us brings a very different agenda to a competition, and unanimity is not to be expected. [Editor]