★★★★★ Gerald Finley and Julius Drake bring their Night and Day tour to London

★★★★★ Gerald Finley and Julius Drake bring their Night and Day tour to London

Bachtrack review of Gerald Finley & Julius Drake recital

November 2023 

Link to the review on the Bachtrack website: here.

Mark Valencia writes, "I emerged from this wonderful recital on cloud 9. Here I attempt to explain why":

The stately gravitas of Middle Temple Hall, now 450 years old and an oak-panelled jewel at the heart of London’s legal cloister, survived in dignity until the final moments of this exceptional recital. That was the point when Gerald Finley and Julius Drake shed their cultured demeanour and played it for laughs.

The first half was devoted to Heine settings by Schumann and Schubert, so not many chuckles there. Eight songs by the former, half of them offcuts from Dichterliebe, made a substantial opening sequence, and from the moment he sidled into the first notes (no waiting for the applause to subside; they had a job to do) the Canadian bass-baritone revealed his familiar warm timbre, as fine-grained and polished as the surrounding woodwork yet altogether human in its colours and compassion.

The duo is on a European tour with this programme and they can seldom have sounded more attuned to their material (and to each other) than here. Finley’s voice was in extraordinary fettle, secure on every note whether north or south of the stave; indeed, both artists were completely inside the music and they inhabited the Schumann songs with a conviction and intensity that held the audience in their thrall.

The beauty of Finley’s legato in Dein Angesicht infused the text with a romantic lyricism, while Drake’s lolloping piano in Mein Wagen rollet langsam was a striking illustration of that song’s locus, a carriage rolling slowly through a bucolic landscape. The sheer theatricality of Belsazar, the poet's verse retelling of the Belshazzar story, afforded a first glimpse of Finley the stage animal, with more to follow in the spectacular Die beiden Grenadiere with its stomping incorporation of La Marseillaise.

In Heine’s contributions to Schwanengesang, Drake the Schubertian demonstrated his prodigious understanding not just of the music’s idiom but of its textual subtleties. Take the ‘cuckoo’-like descending chords that recur in Ihr Bild: at first they evoked a smile; later under Drake’s touch they became tears. The lilting charm of Das Fischermädchen gave way to the chilling arpeggios of Die Stadt, a desolate song that shares a musical terrain with Nebensonnen from WinterreiseDer Doppelgänger was even bleaker and Drake’s piano bit the air with some astonishing discords.

It took a clutch of Henri Duparc’s mélodies to lighten the mood, for even the French composer’s most lovelorn songs have a warmth about them. It's unusual to hear these gems sung by a bass-baritone but Finley made it all sound inevitable. Drake divided L’Invitation au voyage into two segments by dint of a daringly protracted pause after the first “volupté” – the kind of choice that makes one listen afresh to music we can otherwise take for granted. Phidylé followed hard on its heels, both songs interpreted with an aching, truthful beauty. What luxury it was to hear such masterworks side by side!

In conclusion, a modest miscellany: a trifle by Britten that didn’t quite make it into Nocturne, Liszt in English and Cole Porter (Night and Day, naturally) in North American. All these could have been encores, but that slot was reserved for Respighi’s Scottish foray, My Heart's in the Highlands, followed by the aforementioned naughty bit that found Finley the stage animal back and off the leash. Ravel’s Chanson à boire isn’t obvious fare from a composer whose musical bearing is almost as aristocratic as the singer’s, but the former loosened his musical corset for this and the latter roistered his way through the genial drinking song. By some mysterious magic Finley sustained a secure musical line even as he slurred his words, grabbing the piano in an effort to walk unaided. Staggering. 

Read the full review here


The safety of our audience, musicians and staff comes first.