24 November 2013

Of music & spring & love

It’s always a pleasure when you encounter the sheare ease and comfort of established professional musicians. It’s tto that they don’t have some nerves or take things lightly. They just relate better and perform more easily. Alan Hicks and Christina Wilson are in that category. Relaxed and unstrained even when challenged. Christina joked before the concert that she must get all the notes right because I was recording. I guess she did. I didn’t hear any clangers (alhtough there was one little switch of verses). What I noticed was easy, responsive piano accompaniment and powerful, voluminous mezzo-soprano ornamented with deep vibrato and portrayed with considerable drama. There was presence in the patter, too, as Christina introduced the songs, located composers in time, joked about some of the more silly lyrics. (Like the one where the singer wished to be a jug to carress the lover’s lips), but the topics ranged from spring and warmth and hope and peace to music and love. There were groups of songs by several composers and this was interesting as well as an introduction to some more obscure names. Two songs by Purcell were dedications to music (Santa Ceclia’s feast was the following day) including a strange one of repeating drops: “Till the snakes drop, drop, drop, drop, drop, drop, drop, drop, drop from her head” (Music for a while, from text from Oedipus A Tragedy by John Dryden). Then three songs from Schubert who wrote more that 600 before his early death aged 31. One was the Trout which portrays a cunning fisherman and his dastardly technique and the more tragic song of Gretchen at the spinning wheel to the words of Goethe who recounts Gretchen’s love for Faust “My peace is gone / My heart is heavy / I shall never find peace / never again”. Then a jump to early C20th and songs by Fernanco Obados with touches of flamenco and jazz. Christina introduced one with the outline: “Tiny is the bride, tiny is the groom, tiny is the bedroom. I must buy a tiny bed and a mosquito net”. (Maybe something is lost in translation). Then three songs from Brit Roger Quilter: Fair house of joy, Drink to me only and Lover’s philosophy. You couldn’t not recognise Drink to me only from the words of Ben Johnson, with its A-A-B-A 32-bar structure in 3/4 with turnaround. It makes you realise how common is the infrastructure of Western music, despite the different cultures and repertoires. But how good was this? An excellent end to a lovely little and intimate monthly concert season at St Albans. Christina Wilson (mezzo-soprano) sang with accompaniment from Alan Hicks (piano).

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