William Walton’s entertainment Facade continually attracts celebrity reciters, and the latest of these is William Sitwell, editor, broadcaster and foodie writer, and great-nephew of Edith Sitwell herself, poetess of these lorgnette-gazing, surreal verses.
On Friday evening he delivered a witty account of them in Walton’s matchless settings, his phrasing and breath-control awesome in the patter-sections, his visual interaction with his equally adept fellow-reciter Sarah Gabriel adding an element of communication which would not have been present at the work’s premiere, when Edith recited through a megaphone behind a curtain.
The substance of the texts was not always audible (nor should it be), but the sound-patterns were brilliantly conveyed, complemented by the deft playing of the tiny Orchestra of St Paul’s under the meticulous Ben Palmer.
Gabriel was the brilliant soloist in Schoenberg’s cabaret-style Pierrot Lunaire, surely an influence upon Facade (as it was upon the opening of Turandot – Puccini had attended the Pierrot premiere). She trod the line between speech-song and flowering vocalisation touchingly and lyrically, but her use of the score in her hands, rather than on a stand, was uncomfortable to watch.
Rating * * * *