BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Kitty Whately & Joseph Middleton

A programme of English Song

Kitty Whately (mezzo-soprano) & Joseph Middleton (piano)

Reviewed by: Barnaby Page

Reviewed: 10 April, 2017
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Kitty WhatelyPhotograph: www.kittywhately.comKitty Whately stepped in for an indisposed Sarah Connolly at Wigmore Hall, delivering a nuanced and deeply-known programme of twentieth-century English song.

Ranging from favourites like Vaughan Williams’s Silent Noon to Joseph Horowitz’s extended Lady Macbeth scena, the recital drew partly – but not entirely – from repertoire on Whately’s debut album, This Other Eden.

You could tell just how at home Whately is with this music, and equally importantly its texts, from John Ireland Earth’s Call at the opening; and indeed the slighter pieces were never the also-rans. Pianist Joseph Middleton and Whately worked well together to bring across the masterful simplicity of music such as Peter Warlock’s My Own Country.

Joseph MiddletonPhotograph: josephmiddleton.comThe Horowitz was an undoubted highlight: overt drama at “Great Glamis! Worthy Cawdor!”; madness, anger and frustration at “give me the daggers”; a furious “cannot be undone” followed by the haunting and foreboding “to bed”.

There was drama in Herbert Howells’s King David, too, and in an exciting reading of Charles Villiers Stanford’s Belle Dame Sans Merci. A helter-skelter account of Britten’s Fancie was followed, surprisingly, by Poulenc’s Fancy; if Irishman Stanford is at least an honorary Englishman, it’s difficult to make the same case for Poulenc. But he sets the same Shakespearean text as Britten and the comparison was interesting; besides the Poulenc is beautifully delicate in its own right.

English-language clichés were perhaps inevitable, but they were held off until the final number: Geoffrey Bush’s It Was a Lover and His Lass, where singer and pianist had great fun. Two Northumbrian folksongs formed the joint encore, the first unaccompanied, the second by Terry Conway, and were sweet standouts in themselves.

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