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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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REVIEW: And London Burned

Jenna Douglas, Schmopera

And London Burned

In this 350th year since the Great Fire of London in September of 1666, Temple Church has commissioned the new opera by Matt Rogers and Sally O’ReillyAnd London Burned.

O’Reilly’s libretto draws from the historical accounts of the fire that swallowed a massive area of the City of London, along the Thames roughly between the Tower of London and Blackfriars Bridge, and north of the river as far as the Barbican Centre of today. Most of the City’s buildings and churches – including St. Paul’s Cathedral – were destroyed, along with the homes of 70,000 of the then 80,000 residents.

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REVIEW – A Celebration of Shakespeare: Anne Sofie von Otter, Julius Drake and Henry Goodman

Robert Hugill – www.planethugill.com

Anne Sofie von Otter

Ann Sofie Von Otter. Photography: Mats Bäcker

A Celebration of Shakespeare in Words and Music at Middle Temple Hall on 26 October 2016 was a late celebration of Shakespeare 400 in the only surviving venue from Shakespeare’s time where his plays were performed (Middle Temple Hall saw a performance ofTwelfth Night in 1602). Presented by Temple Music as part of their Temple Song series, the evening featured mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter accompanied by pianist Julius Drake, with actor Henry Goodman. The programme was curated by Sophie Hunter and featured songs by Purcell, RVW, Britten, Schubert, Korngold, Berlioz, Sibelius, Tippett, Rufus Wainwright and Cole Porter, interleaved with readings from Shakespeare.

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REVIEW – Nadine Koutcher: impressive technique, delicacy and drama

Martin Kettle, The Guardian

Belarussian soprano performing on stage with Julius Drake, pianist

Warm musicality … Nadine Koutcher and accompanist Julius Drake.Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

Last June Nadine Koutcher took the 2015 Cardiff Singer of the World title by storm. Now, nearly a year on, the Temple Music Foundation pulled off the notable coup of presenting her London recital debut in Middle Temple Hall, with its artistic director Julius Drake as her considerable accompanist.

The technique was every bit as impressive as it had seemed in Cardiff , but now one also noticed the expressive delicacy and colour of the voice as well as its impressive evenness, caressing the opening phrases of the Liszt’s S’il est un charmant gazon with ideal softness and spinning out the final invocation of the beloved in Oh! Quand je dors surrounded by a garland of Lisztian arpeggios from the keyboard. That softness came again in Berg’s Im Zimmer, but in these songs it was the sustained command of the lush vocal line that impressed even more.

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REVIEW The delight of having both – A Midsummer Nights Dream

Robert Hugill – www.planethugill.com

two cast members on stage of A Midsummer Night's Dream

Lucy Thatcher and David North - A Midsummer Night’s Dream                                           Celia Bartlett Photography

Middle Temple Hall‘s connection to Shakespeare dates back to the playwright’s lifetime when we know that As You Like It was performed there, so that the hall is the only surviving venue we have where Shakespeare’s plays were performed in his lifetime. Temple Musicnow puts on a highly regarded concert series in the hall, so in celebration of the Shakespeare 400 anniversary, they presented a performance of Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Mendelssohn’s incidental music, we caught the second performance on 3 May 2016.

Seeing the way text and music interacted was fascinating. The larger intermezzos set the scene and each had a little in the way of action so that we were not simply sitting listening to music, whilst the extra smaller pieces were all designed to enhance the text. The melodramas for Puck and for Oberon worked superbly, enhancing the magical element though of course presupposing a rather stylised way of declaiming the text. Using Mendelssohn’s music has far more presence than a director might wish for in a modern production and this conditioned the overall style, making the performance more traditional, as well as making the actors declaim the text in the melodramas in a way they might not otherwise have done.

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