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English Song Vaughan Williams and Friends - Devised by Julius Drake

Vaughan Williams Three Whitman Poems; Two Pieces for Violin & Piano; Along the Field; Four Last Songs;
Finzi Songs from Before and after Summer
Howells 6 Songs ; 4 French Rondels
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Vaughan Williams
Two Vocal Duets

Jack Liebeck (violin) Joan Rodgers (soprano) Christopher Maltman (baritone) Julius Drake (piano)

Wigmore Hall 11 September 2008

This most unusual evening (the start of a series) filled Wigmore Hall, which will have gratified the promoters since most of the music will have been unfamiliar to the great majority of ticket buyers. Everyone appeared contented and the applause was vociferous; at the end of a long evening Julius Drake had to announce that they were all four musicians finishing with a "programmed encore"...

We greatly enjoyed the evening more than anticipated, and right to the end, in my own case because (not inspite of) the songs being practically all new to us. One's receptivity is of quite a different nature than when hearing an established canonic favourite like a Beethoven symphony or a Schubert Winterreise for the umpteenth time. In general, in my eighth decade of music listening, it is good to be able to banish comparisons for once. Another advantage was that the texts were, for once, all in one's own language, and were mostly rather good poems.

So it pleases me to defer to our experienced reviewer Nina Drucker, whose legibility is not compromised by her preference for pen and paper over new technology which she - and, she tells me, many of her musical friends - have eschewed.

We endorse her few reservations; yes, the last of the Hardy songs (they were not intended by VW himself as a Last group) is not one of his finest, and though we were in a mood to relax and enjoy the multi-versed Howells chansons, it was a pity to sacrifice three of the Finzi set of ten - I had a similar complaint about Joyce DiDonato's "losing" four of Copland's twelve the previous week...

As evidence that all reviewing has a substantial personal component, do read the far more critical review in MusicWeb's Seen&Heard.

Peter Grahame Woolf