On Record – David Quigley – The Fair Hills of Éire: Irish Airs and Dances (Heritage Records)

david-quigley

David Quigley (piano)

Beach The Fair Hills of Éire Op.91 (1922)
Esposito Two Irish Melodies Op.39 (1883)
Field Go to the Devil and Shake Yourself (1798)
Hammond Miniatures and Modulations (2011) – No. 5, Old Truagh; No. 21, The Beardless Boy
Hennessy Variations sur un air Irlandais ancien Op.28 (1908)
Hough Londonderry Air (2014)
Martin Sionna – Spirit of the Shannon (2018)
Moeran Irish Love Song (1926); The White Mountain (1929)
Smith Paraphrase on ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ Op.173 (1883)
Stanford arr. Grainger Four Irish Dances Op.89 (1916) – no.1: Maguire’s Kick; no.4: A Reel

Heritage Records HTGCD152 [62’39”]
Producer / Engineer David Marshalsea

Recorded 9 & 11 April 2022 at Elgar Concert Hall, The Bramall, University of Birmingham

Reviewed by Richard Whitehouse

What’s the story?

The enterprising Heritage label continues its association with David Quigley in this recital   of Irish piano works as cover over two centuries, reminding listeners of the wealth of folk or traditional music from that island and its influence on successive generations of composers.

What’s the music like?

Published as Favorite (sic) Irish Dance Arranged as a Rondo for the Piano Forte, the first item is not unreasonably attributed to the teenage John Field and make for a breezy recital-opener – following which, pianist Stephen Hough demonstrated his prowess as an arranger with what is surely the most famous of all Irish melodies. Two pieces by the Italian émigré Michele Esposito – the trenchant Avenging and Bright, followed by the pensive Though the Last Glimpse of Erin – complement each other ideally, whereas the first from a set of dances by Charles Villers Stanford exudes bracing humour most likely accentuated in this idiomatic arrangement by no less than Percy Grainger. By some distance the longest piece here is from Swan Hennessy, an Irish/American later resident in France – his 12 variations on an (unidentified) theme in the lineage of various such works from the 19th century but diverting in its ingenuity. Best known as an inquiring pianist, Philip Martin the composer is represented by this evocative set of ‘rhapsodic variations’ written for the present artist.

Sidney Smith’s Paraphrase de concert on another Irish staple is the most virtuosic music and would make a dashing encore even today. Philip Hammond is the other contemporary composer featured – the present brace, part of a sequence of 21 drawn from the Edward Bunting collection and likewise written for Quigley, respectively searching and animated     in their emotional profile. From among her many mood-pieces, that by Amy Beach yields       a limpid poetry that more than deserves to provide the title for this collection overall. An English composer with direct Irish ancestry, Ernest Moeran’s predilection for all-things Celtic is made plain by the two pieces heard here, their recourse to traditional melodies enhanced by an idiomatic pianism which adds greatly to the winsomeness of their appeal. Back, finally, to those Stanford/Grainger dances with the fourth from this set a reminder that the former, whatever his formidable reputation as a pedagogue, was never averse to indulging his Irish roots in the writing of music as scintillating as it remains appealing.

Does it all work?

Admirably. Quigley is as committed to the music of his homeland as have been numerous of his predecessors, not only with performing these pieces in recital but also by finding ways of integrating them into a cohesive overall programme. Only one achieves (just) the 10-minute mark and another is almost eight minutes, making them ideal for combining into a judicious sequence – one which, at little more than an hour’s length, can be enjoyed at a single hearing. Quigley will hopefully have the chance to mine the ‘Irish piano-book’ further in due course.

Is it recommended?

Indeed. Quigley is a perceptive exponent of this repertoire, his Kawai Shigeru SK-EX heard to advantage in the spacious yet detailed acoustic of the Elgar Concert Hall. With succinctly informative notes from Andrew H. King, this recital warrants the warmest recommendation.

For further information on this release, and to purchase, visit the Heritage Records website, and for more on David Quigley click here

Online concert review – Louise Alder & Joseph Middleton @ Wigmore Hall – Songs by Amy Beach, Clara Schumann, Lili Boulanger, Alma Mahler & Libby Larsen

Louise Alder (soprano, above), Joseph Middleton (piano, below)

Beach 3 Browning Songs Op. 44 (1889-1900)
Clara Schumann Er ist gekommen Op. 12 No. 1; Warum willst du and’re fragen Op. 12 No. 3; Liebst du um Schönheit Op. 12 No. 2 (1841)
Lili Boulanger Clairières dans le ciel (excerpts): Elle était descendue au bas de la prairie; Vous m’avez regardé avec toute votre âme; Au pied de mon lit; Nous nous aimerons; Si tout ceci n’est qu’un pauvre rêve (1913-14)
Alma Mahler Laue Sommernacht (1910); Ich wandle unter Blumen (1910); Licht in der Nacht (1915)
Libby Larsen Try Me, Good King: Last Words of the Wives of Henry VIII (2000)

Wigmore Hall, London, 21 March 2022

Watch and listen

review of online broadcast by Ben Hogwood Picture of Louise Alder (c) Gerard Collett

Soprano Louise Alder and pianist Joseph Middleton are renowned for consistently original programming, and this recital for a BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert at the Wigmore Hall recital was no exception. Assembling songs by five women composers, they offered a fascinating juxtaposition of style and text setting, offering further proof that the music of Clara Schumann and Alma Mahler need no longer operate in the shadows of their husbands.

Given the freshness of the air in Southern England it was entirely appropriate that the pair should begin with a vibrant song from Amy Beach, The year’s at the spring. The first in a trio of Robert Browning settings, it had a sprightly tread, in contrast to the Ah, Love, but a day! of Beach’s short cycle, where ‘summer has stopped’, which found the singer in a worrisome state but easily negotiating her higher range. The third song, I send my heart up to thee, was subtly prompted by Middleton’s arpeggiated piano

The Schumanns’ year of song was not just exclusive to Robert, with Clara publishing three settings of Friedrich Rückert that year. They made a powerful impact in this concert, with a tempestuous account of Er ist gekommen (He came in storm and rain). There was an intimate air to Warum willst du and’re fragen (Why enquire of others), tinged with longing and sung by Alder with a beautiful, natural tone. Liebst du um Schönheit (If you love for beauty) was lost in love, prompted by Middleton’s easily flowing piano.

In her all too brief life, Lili Boulanger gained for herself a reputation as a vocal composer of impressive standing, a view boosted by this quintet taken from Clairières dans le ciel, settings of 13 poems by Francis Jammes. When singing of the ‘girls who are too tall’ in Elle était descendue au bas de la prairie (She had reached the low-lying meadow), Alder soared to the heights, while the pair enjoyed Boulanger’s harmonically elusive writing, Middleton upholding the tension beautifully in Vous m’avez regardé avec toute votre âme (You gazed at me with all your soul).

Au pied de mon lit (At the foot of my bed) stood out as one of the most memorable songs of the recital. A character picture, it was vividly painted by the pair before a turbulent and passionate episode, notable for Alder’s sublime vibrato control at the end. The anticipation of Nous nous aimerons (We shall love each other) hung heavy on the air, with appropriately rich harmonies, before the singer’s lower range brought rich colour and notable control to the slow Si tout ceci n’est qu’un pauvre rêve (If all this is but a poor dream).

We then heard a trio of Alma Mahler settings, strongly chromatic and – in the case of Laue sommernacht (Mild summer night) – particularly sultry. The Heine setting Ich wandle unter Blumen ( I wander among flowers) was short but urgent, before a second setting of Bierbaum, Licht in der Nacht (A nocturnal light) brought us back to earth for deep contemplation. The song rose briefly to acknowledge the rapturous brightness of the star ‘above the house of our Lord Jesus Christ’ before sinking into the dark lower end of the piano once again.

Libby Larsen’s song cycle Try Me, Good King took as its inspiration the last words of the five executed wives of Henry VIII, giving Alder the opportunity to characterise each of the fated women. She did so with impressive power and guile, Katherine of Aragon hanging on high above a worrisome chord, with Anne Boleyn then fraught with trouble. As with the earlier songs Alder’s body language was a powerful visual aid, taking Boleyn’s words ‘Try me’ up to the very skies above. Larsen’s setting for Jane Seymour exhibited a special radiance, while Anne of Cleves was given a resolute if ultimately skewed march. The final Katherine Howard proclaiming her innocence to ultimately deaf ears, insisting her innocence before really scaling the heights of anguish.

As an encore, Alder and Middleton gave us Florence Price’s Night, a chance for the soprano to spread her wings with longer phrases. Perhaps surprisingly there was a hint of Richard Strauss here, enjoyed in the piano part by Middleton – the song capping an hour of discovery and vivid storytelling.

For information on Louise and Joseph’s album of French song on Chandos Records, Chère Nuit, click here

Wigmore Mondays: Golda Schultz & Jonathan Ware – Mozart, Schubert, Amy Beach & John Carter

Golda Schultz (soprano, above) and Jonathan Ware (piano, below – credit Kaupo Kikkas)

Mozart An Chloe, K524; Das Lied der Trennung, K519 (both 1787)
Schubert Heimliches Lieben, D922 (1827); Romanze (Rosamunde, D797 No 3b) (1823); Suleika I, D720; Suleika II, D717 (both 1821)
Amy Beach Three Browning Songs, Op 44 (1900)
John Carter Cantata (1964) (40:33-53:30)

Wigmore Hall, London; Monday 5 February 2018

You can listen to the BBC Radio 3 broadcast by clicking here

Written by Ben Hogwood

It is always welcome to see a singer make their debut at a venue like the Wigmore Hall with a less than usual recital programme in tow. South African soprano Golda Schultz did just that, giving with pianist Jonathan Ware a concert ranging some 200 years and crossing from Europe to North America as it progressed.

Europe first, and two songs from Mozart. While known as a vocal composer, Mozart’s songs are relatively rarely heard in the concert hall, and it was nice to hear two substantial, more mature examples, from around the time of Le Nozze di Figaro. An Chloe made a relatively graceful start, Schultz exhibiting a full voice with a lovely bright top end to the soprano voice, but the more substantial Das Lied der Trennung (6:49-11:30) told a story of greater angst.

The Schubert selection (from 19:32-29:28) was a quartet of the composer’s settings of women poets, beginning with the late (for him, anyway!) song Heimliches Lieben. Written when the composer was still only 29, it is a deeply passionate affair, and Schultz involved herself completely. Then we heard the lovely Romanze (16:20), with its deep longing, persuasively phrased in accompaniment by Ware.

Both Suleika songs followed, often wrongly attributed to Goethe but with words by Marianne von Willemer. The first, initially an edgy affair (19:32), was described by Brahms as ‘the loveliest song ever written’, and here benefited from Schultz’s poise and Ware’s telling shifts from major to minor key before evening out for a radiant coda. The second (25:16) included the same shifts, but danced lightly on its feet.

Amy Beach was one of the first women composers to really make a lasting impression in classical music, terrible as that sentence sounds. Some of her songs are well known, in particular these three short settings of poetry by Robert Browning (31:02-33:50 on the broadcast). The first, The Year’s at the Spring! (31:02), was a rapturous picture postcard with which to throw open the doors, while Ah, Love, but a Day! (32:13) grew gradually higher in range, Schultz making the most of this with an exquisitely floated delivery. Finally I Send My Heart Up To Thee (33:50) was a joyful ray of light.

Ending the program was a real curiosity, the Cantata by little-known Afro-American composer John Carter (1932-c1981). Written for and premiered by Leontyne Price in 1964, it is based on settings of Negro spirituals, but adds some particularly vivid descriptions in the piano part, heroically played here by Jonathan Ware. His Prelude (40:33) set out an impressive stature for the piece, which Schultz built on with Peter, Go Ring Dem Bells (41:23). This developed into a tour de force, increasingly fervent with peals of bells in the right hand and a soaring top B flat from Schultz, brilliantly delivered.

After this a step backwards was needed – and found – in Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child (45:12), a solemn utterance, before the contemplative Let Us Break Bread Together On Our Knees (48:02). From the silence came a tumultuous final movement (51:22), the Toccata Ride On King Jesus. Both performers gave it everything, capturing the mysterious power of Carter’s music.

There were two encores – an affectionate account of Somewhere Over The Rainbow (54:48), vibrato beautifully controlled, and then, closer to home for Schultz, an Afrikaan song entitled Homesickness (1:00:28).

Further listening

You can watch an intriguing interview with Golda Schutz below, in which she candidly discusses her own stage fright – which certainly was not on show at the Wigmore Hall!

Meanwhile to hear recordings of the music from this concert you can use the Spotify playlist below:

Listening to the John Carter Cantata I was reminded of Copland’s Old American Songs – and you can hear them in their choral versions below, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas: