What better way to celebrate St. George's Day than in the company of the magnificent Dame Felicity Lott and some of our greatest poets and composers?
A recital such as this is as much an engrossing evening of poetry as it is a vocal performance and the glory of these songs is in the literate and subtle way words and music are mixed, so full marks for including all the words in the programme.
The New Guesten Hall was an ideally sized venue for an intimate occasion such as this, and Dame Felicity’s magnetism embraced us all instantly, creating an immediate rapport. The pianist, Sebastian Wybrew, was a new name to me but his playing was extremely accomplished and flexible. He certainly had some varied stylistic ground to cover in this popular but wide ranging programme moving from Purcell to the 20th century and songs by Elgar, Bridge, Gurney, Vaughan Williams and others.
My own favourites from more than 20 songs included a radiant and hushed performance of Warlock’s My own country, followed by his setting of Sleep, where Whybrew’s piano produced some mesmerising sounds, and a very well managed progress through the harmonic thickets of the postlude to a satisfying conclusion.
The sense of engagement Lott always creates even convinced us that we had understood Auden’s convoluted lyrics in Britten’s As it is, plenty, before beguiling us with a superb rendition of Noël Coward’s wicked A bar on the Piccola Marina: an operatic scena in all but name, with the heroine letting her hair down in irresistibly comic fashion.