BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Sophie Bevan & Sebastian Wybrew

Twentieth-century English Song & Traditional numbers arranged

Sophie Bevan (soprano) & Sebastian Wybrew (piano)

Reviewed by: Barnaby Page

Reviewed: 11 September, 2017
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Sophie BevanPhotograph: Sussie AhlburgSophie Bevan and Sebastian Wybrew kicked off the latest season of BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recitals at Wigmore Hall, a programme of mostly twentieth-century song which offered much more variety than suggested on paper. This was because, despite the assertion, it was not strictly an all-English programme: Herbert Hughes was Irish, and Percy Grainger a German-educated Australian who lived in the US much longer than he did in Britain.

More importantly, both Bevan and Wybrew brought to these songs – essentially miniatures, all broadly on the theme of love – as wide a range of expression and style as the settings’ often constrained limits would allow; they certainly avoided overdoing nostalgic wistfulness. If Bevan’s enunciation was occasionally overwhelmed by the power of her highest notes, she is nevertheless a splendid singer whose operatic skills were drawn upon at times, yet without preventing the music from speaking for itself.

Well-judged musicianship as well as technical skill was brought to a contrasting selections that included the exuberant ‘Betty and Johnny’ of Eric Coates; impassioned deliveries of Grainger’s ‘Sprig of Thyme’ and the Traditional ‘Lord Rendall’, the latter with a particularly impressive dynamic range; a balanced, nicely phrased account of Ivor Gurney’s ‘Down by the Salley Gardens’; and some haunting passages in Hughes’s ‘I Know Where I’m Going’ as well as further Grainger, ‘Died for Love’. A single highlight would include Britten’s ‘Last Rose of Summer’ (followed by his ‘O Waly, Waly’ as an encore) would as a strong contender. Wybrew shone as a complement to Bevan in those pieces where the pianist is given more to do, such as in the Britten examples.

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