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REVIEW: Temple Song with Iestyn Davies and Julius Drake

Geoff Brown, The Times

So the hero of Die schöne Müllerin, the young itinerant whose spurned love for “the fair maid of the mill” sends him to a watery grave, is a countertenor? He was, at least, on Monday night when Iestyn Davies, with Julius Drake superb at the piano, mounted his first public assault on Schubert’s great song cycle.

By themselves the score’s notes and pitches are amply suited to Davies’s vocal register, although it’s fair to question if falsetto piping, however skilled, allows access to all the colours possible with voices larger and deeper. At any rate, the result of Davies’s travails was an exquisitely delivered performance, but one that was emotionally timid at times. Maybe he just needs to live with the work longer.

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REVIEW: 4* Temple Song with Iestyn Davies and Julius Drake

Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph

Iestyn Davies is the counter-tenor of the moment, with good reason. Thanks to the riveting emotional truth of his singing, he’s brought the high falsetto male voice down to earth, tearing it away from its usual connotations of lofty Baroque operatic heroes and Shakespearean sprites of androgynous sexuality.

But Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin might seem to be a bridge too far. It’s the archetypal romantic song-cycle, recorded by so many great singers of the past century: Fritz Wunderlich, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Hermann Prey. The sad tale of the itinerant farmhand who falls for the miller’s daughter and pines away when she rejects him is rooted in the earthy reality of brooks, meadows and hearty dinners around a big farm table. That tinge of the other-worldly that the counter-tenor voice brings would surely be out of place.

Davies put any misgivings to rest – almost. He and pianist Julius Drake made it clear from the beginning that this wasn’t going to be a Schöne Müllerin-lite, adapted to the lighter timbre of the counter-tenor voice. The more intense songs were burningly hot. Impatience practically tripped over itself in its hurry, and singer and pianist tore into Jealousy and Pride with reckless fury. In The Beloved Colour, Davies gave the singer’s realisation that the girl really prefers the bold hunter a despairing bitterness that was startling.

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REVIEW: Temple Song with Iestyn Davies

Claire Seymour, Opera Today

Die schöne Müllerin: Davies and Drake provoke fresh thoughts at Middle Temple Hall

Schubert wrote Die schöne Müllerin (1824) for a tenor (or soprano) range – that of his own voice. Wilhelm Müller’s poems depict the youthful unsophistication of a country lad who, wandering with carefree unworldliness besides a burbling stream, comes upon a watermill, espies the miller’s fetching daughter and promptly falls in love – only to be disillusioned when she spurns him for a virile hunter. So, perhaps the tenor voice possesses the requisite combination of lightness and yearning to convey this trajectory from guileless innocence to disenchantment and dejection.

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REVIEW: 4* Temple Song with Iestyn Davies

Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill

A remarkable voice in a remarkable song cycleA counter-tenor voice singing Schubert lieder is still a relatively unusual phenomenon, so there was great interest in Iestyn Davies‘ Temple Songrecital at Middle Temple Hall on 10 July 2017 when accompanied by pianist Julius Drake, the counter-tenor sang Schubert’s first great song-cycle Die schöne Müllerin. Having a high voice in this cycle makes a lot of sense as it brings out the youthful qualities of the young hero, though even female recordings of the cycle are relatively rare with notable ones by Lotte Lehmann (1942), Brigitte Fassbaender (1993) and Barbara Hendricks (2003).

Iestyn Davies is known for his espousal of both the Baroque and the contemporary repertoire, and seeing how he brought his intelligent approach and elegant tone to bear on Schubert was always going to be interesting and illuminating. He used music, but merely as an aide memoire and this was a highly communicative performance with the relative intimacy of Middle Temple Hall helping.

Text is, of course, important in Schubert and whilst Davies sang more lyrically on the voice than some singers, his projection of the text was excellent. This cycle had a constant feel of being about the text and the narrative. There was more of a sense of Davies relating a story to us, rather than being a dramatic narrative with the singer as protagonist.

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REVIEW: 4* Festa Veneziana!

Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill
cardinal vaughan
Some thrilling moments in a programme of Venetian poly-choral music of both Giovanni and Andrea GabrieliFor Festa Veneziana! at the Temple Church on Tuesday 14 March 2017, the Schola Cantorum of The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, director Scott Price, was joined by His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts, tenors Peter Davoren and Nicholas Mulroy for a programme of Venetian 17th century poly-choral music, as part of the Temple Music Foundation‘s concert series.The name most associated with this period is Giovanni Gabrieli, and the programme started with Giovanni Gabrieli’s 14-part In ecclessiis and concluded with his 15-part Jubilate Deo. But the great virtue of Scott Price’s programme was that we also heard music by Giovanni Gabrieli’s uncle, Andrea Gabrieli including the spectacular 16-part Gloriaalong with lesser known Venetian composers Giovanni Battists Grillo and Gioseffo Guami.

The Schola Cantorum of The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School is an all-male choir (of boys aged 11 to 18) numbering over 50 which is the liturgical choir of The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, singing during the regular Wednesday school masses as well as having frequent external engagement. The boys make what might be termed a Continental sound, with the two dozen trebles giving an admirably strong, firm and focused sound. Overall it was a robust and vibrant sound, often thrilling with a confident sense of engagement with the music.

Scott Price followed known 17th century Venetian practice in mixing instruments and voices in the poly-choral pieces, and he also used a semi-chorus of boys from the choir, so the results had a striking sense of the contrast between timbres and between groups of different sizes. In Giovanni Gabrieli’s In ecclesiis the interaction between choir, a quartet of soloists (Aidan Cole, Philippe Barbaroussis, Nicholas Mulroy and Peter Davoren), the cornets and sackbuts and Iestyn Evans’ organ produced some thrilling moments, and some finely subtle ones too.

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REVIEW: 5* Christine Rice, Julius Drake, Middle Temple Hall

David Nice, The Arts Desk

Christine Rice at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden April 2015

 

Glorious abandonment and perfect technique from one of the world’s great mezzos

To catch the searing desolation of a lover scorned, you need to be the complete artist, with temperament and technique in perfect equilibrium. Mezzo Christine Rice has taken us from Berlioz’s Marguerite and Mozart’s Donna Elvira at English National Opera via Birtwistle’s Ariadne to Haydn’s, and – most taxing of all – the end of an affair by telephone in Poulenc’s La Voix Humaine. The abandoned heroines of Haydn and Poulenc found themselves in the most exposed surroundings possible, the intimacy of a song recital in the giving acoustics of Middle Temple Hall, with only a superlative pianist, Julius Drake, as lethal accomplice.

Of our three great British mezzos, Rice is poised somewhere between the refinement, sometimes verging on the chilly, of Sarah Connolly and the go-for-broke intensity of Alice Coote. This was a programme of supreme daring. The two monologues, in effect one-act operas, were separated by Ravel songs in five languages – Spanish, French, Italian, Yiddish and Hebrew – in what could have been an intermezzo but ended up in equal intensity: Rice’s vivid characterisation of the dialogue between inquiring Jewish father and his piously rapturous son segued straight into what in effect became the boy’s hymn of praise, a Kaddish of mesmerising power. The flashing power of Cancion española suggested that a whole evening of Falla, Obradors and Mompou from this chameleonic artist and her pianist would be utterly beguiling and idiomatic.

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REVIEW: Intense abandon – Christine Rice and Julius Drake in Haydn and Poulenc

Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill

Christine Rice at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden April 2015

Star rating: 4.5

Christine Rice incarnating two abandoned women in an evening of intimate intensity

Mezzo-soprano Christine Rice is a relatively rare visitor to London’s recital halls so it was a pleasure to be able to hear her in recital with Julius Drake for the first of Temple Music‘s Temple Song series of 2017, at Middle Temple Hall on Monday 23 January 2107. Abandoned women seemed to be the underlying theme of the programme as we opened with Haydn’s Arianna a Naxos and closed with Poulenc’s La voix humaine, in between there were Ravel’s Chants populaires and Kaddisch.

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REVIEW: Handel’s Messiah, Intimate and text-driven (Temple Winter Festival)

Robert Hull, Planet Hugill

messiah-for-web

Intimate and text-driven: Handel’s Messiah from Ian Page and Classical Opera 

The Temple Winter Festival came to a close on Monday 19 December 2016 with a performance of Handel’s Messiah in Middle Temple Hall, with Ian Page conducting the choir and orchestra of Classical Opera plus soloists Sarah FoxAngela SimkinStuart Jackson and Neal Davies.

This was a relatively intimate account of the work, with a choir of nine young professional singers and an orchestral ensemble based on nine string players. This meant that the soloists could take advantage of the relatively favourable balance, and this was a very text-based performance as it should be. Ian Page favoured quite brisk speeds, particularly in the choruses as he was able to take advantage of the high degree of flexibility and technical expertise from his small group of choristers.

The overture moved from intimacy to grandeur, ending with a nicely perky fast section. The smaller string contingent meant that we got a lovely experience of Mark Baigent’s oboe.

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REVIEW: Temple Song 2016 Roderick Williams, A chance to hear some less familiar gems

Barry Millington, Evening Standard

Roderick Williams 12 July 2010

Roderick Williams/Julius Drake, review: A chance to hear some less familiar gems

Roderick Williams offered an engaging stage presence at Middle Temple Hall, writes Barry Millington

The baritone Roderick Williams has sung Schubert’s Winterreise in both German and English, but has long specialised in the English repertory. It was a logical step, therefore, to come up with An English Winter Journey – namely a sequence of English songs that traces a similar arc to that of Schubert’s cycle.

There are many neat parallels. The ambulatory Gute Nacht that opens Winterreise is mirrored here by the striding rhythms of Vaughan Williams’ The Vagabond, while the cantering triplets of Schubert’s Die Post become a speeding train in Britten’s Midnight on the Great Western.

While not denying himself the opportunity to offer a handful of favourites – Butterworth’s The Lads in their Hundreds, Vaughan Williams’ Linden Lea and Whither must I Wander?, for example – the English Winter Journey concept also allowed us to hear some less familiar gems. Five of Ivor Gurney’s inspired settings were included: Sleep and Lights Out were both movingly projected by the singer, their melting harmonies sensitively unfolded by pianist Julius Drake.

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REVIEW: Temple Song 2016 Roderick Williams

Claire Seymour, Opera Today

Roderick Williams 12 July 2010

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

Baritone and pianist are both experienced exponents of Schubert’s Winterreise, having performed the work, in Williams’ case, in both German and English, and in Drake’s case with numerous internationally renowned singers. This Temple Song Series recital was musically rewarding, intellectually stimulating and emotionally fulfilling in equal measure.

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