Review of Summer Love Songs & Jazz

Reviewer – Lionel Steuart Fothringham

This wonderfully varied programme conducted by Robin Walker was presented to a capacity audience in the sympathetic acoustic of St John’s Church.

The Liebeslieder waltzes of Brahms which opened the concert were sung with well-shaped phrases and excellent pronunciation. Overall, the women’s voices came across much better than the men’s in their respective solo passages, and the sound remained well-controlled in the louder items. The piano duet accompaniment played by Clifford Benson and Junko Nakamura was played with great sensitivity.

Schumann’s Fantasiestücke for cello and piano were performed by Elizabeth Moore and Clifford Benson in a very expressive way with an excellent sense of rubato. It was a pity, however, that the cello was poorly positioned and did not project well, forcing the pianist to hold back a little too much in the final piece.

Elgar’s There is sweet music is a challenging work for unaccompanied 8-part choir incorporating a complicated key scheme. Unfortunately the performance suffered from tuning problems as a result, but the choir captured the enigmatic quality of the text very well.

The jump to the early seventeenth century for a selection of madrigals worked very well. All were sung with an excellent sense of style and contrast, but there were some problems of balance and pacing in one or two items. Most impressive were the two quiet numbers (Weep you no more, sad fountains by Dowland and The Silver Swan by Gibbons) which were very well controlled.

Prelude, Fugue & Riffs for cello and piano by local composer Laurie Dunkin Wedd was excitingly performed, despite some tuning problems in the difficult first movement. The virtuoso last movement seemed curiously out of character with the rest of the work – it would doubtless sound better played by a rock band!

The concert concluded with four well-known jazz items from 1930s New York. Sadly, In The Mood and I Got Rhythm lacked a certain amount of the sparkle and energy that the music is crying out for, but the gentler Night And Day and Deep Purple were performed with great skill and excellent interplay between the voices.