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Vaughan Williams, Liszt, Mahler & Butterworth

Vaughan Williams ‘Songs of travel’ (1901/1904)
Liszt ‘Tre sonetti di petrarca’ S270

Mahler ‘Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen’
Butterworth ‘A Shropshire lad’.

Britten Waly, Waly

Jacques Imbrailo (baritone) & Julius Drake (piano)
Middle Temple Hall London 17th May 2011

A riveting song recital, very much in two parts. Vaughan Williams' Songs of travel from his early thirties have not really stood the test of time, though they will have been welcomed & enjoyed by this audience of mainly lawyers and their associates. Many of them have a piano part which shadows the vocal line. Imbrailio began in loud, confident voice which did not judge well the acoustic of Middle Temple Hall and seemed more suted to a large opera house. The quality was 'gravelly' and not beautiful, to may ears, anyhow. That approach was more appropriate to the Liszt songs, which have powerful, virtuosic accompaniments.

It felt like a different recital and a different singer after the interval; a not uncommon experience in solo song recitals. Mahler's early songs lost nothing in their original 1894 piano version, superbly judged by the ever reliable Julius Drake; indeed the focus and intensity was perhaps greater than in more usual orchestral concert experience, with the"gleaming knife" of No 3 quite overwhelming (q.v. CD review in musicweb-international).

I had assumed this must be the climax of the recital, and maybe in retrospect it was so, but the Butterworth came up as fresh as ever and convincingly as a great English song cycle, with the shadow of war and young lives lost ever present, topical still today as in the 1920s.

Britten supplied the ideal encore, reminding us of Jacques Imbrailo's huge success in the wonderful Glyndebourne Billy Budd, now available in a well filmed and recorded blue-ray DVD [Opus Arte

A memorable start to a new Temple Song series, curated by Julius Drake*, with seats at £45 - £5.

Peter Grahame Woolf

* Julius Drake's debut solo piano CD recital is just released, and will delight all his song recital afficionados []