Sweeter than roses; I attempt from Loves sickness to fly
Bleuet; Le disparu; C
Till Earth Outwears, Op.19a
Drei Lieder, Op.29
Despite and Still, Op.41
Andrew Kennedy (tenor) & Christopher Glynn (piano)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 5 March, 2007
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
Owing to illness, flautist Sharon Bezaly (and, therefore, pianist Love Derwinger) was unable to fulfil her commitment to this lunchtime recital, so great credit must go to Andrew Kennedy and Christopher Glynn for stepping in at short notice with this intriguing mix of vocal styles.Kennedy is a singer who shows great enjoyment in the music he performs and who on this evidence responds extremely well to the subject matter within the text.
This roughly chronological walk through the 20th-century covered three languages and two song-cycles. Most impressive of these was one of Gerald Finzi’s most concentrated Thomas Hardy settings. “Till Earth Outwears” occupied the composer on and off for thirty years, from the sudden joyous outburst at the end of ‘The Market Girl’, where Kennedy conveyed appropriate delight at winning a one-man auction, to the relatively introspective ‘It Never Looks Like Summer’. Most impressive of all – and suitably apt just two days after the event – was ‘At A Lunar Eclipse’, where the duo built to a powerful climax, the song clinched just after by Glynn’s well executed and unexpected harmonic twist.
Samuel Barber’s “Despite And Still” is a relatively late work from 1969, and its five songs compact into little more than ten minutes. Three of the settings are texts by Robert Graves, and the central ‘In The Wilderness’ painted a vivid picture of Jesus’s temptation in the desert, with Glynn’s “rats on leather wings” truly disquieting. The setting of a passage from James Joyce’s “Ulysses” presented a challenge to both in its short phrase settings, and though Kennedy overdid the climax the scene was well set in ‘Solitary Hotel’.
The cycles framed three songs from Richard Strauss. The first of the Opus 29 set, ‘Schlagende Herzen’, was charming with its playful “kling-klang” refrain. More gentle was ‘Traum durch’ (Dream through Dusk) and the nocturnal theme continued with ‘Nachtgang’. Both would have benefited from a slightly more relaxed air, with Kennedy a little fraught at the climaxes, but Glynn’s accompaniment was subtle and fresh.
Kennedy seemed much better suited to three relatively sombre Poulenc songs, finding a graceful melancholy in “Bleuet” and a particularly affecting upper register to tell of the wounded knight in “C”.
As an introduction the tenor gave us two Tippett arrangements of Purcell, “Sweeter Than Roses” starting with a flourish and “I attempt from Love’s sickness to fly” given a relatively straight performance.
It was a pity that the hall was less than half-full, but Kennedy and Glynn rewarded those who made the effort.