Spring Sound Festival Review: Sarah Leonard with Orchestra of the Swan, at Compton Verney
A dignified Palladian mansion is a fine setting for an afternoon concert, but marble floor, elegant large windows and lack of soft furnishings in the intimate concert venue did not promote a good acoustic.
Conductor Kenneth Woods was hard pressed to create any sympathetic balance for soprano Sarah Leonard’s sparkling performance, in spite of the fact that only seven instrumentalists were initially involved.
The world premiére of Joanna Lee’s The Chronicles of Archy has deliciously amusing words, but much was lost as the soloist was inadvertently swamped by instrumentalists, despite, for the most part violin, viola and cello being inaudible.
Here is a singer with a huge range and an imaginative insight into the quirky poetry, including hair-raising screams and sibilant mystery intriguing and amusing her audience.
Squeaks on the cello, tapping on woodwind keys and a myriad of other percussive effects from sandpaper blocks to tiny football ratchet, adding to some hectic playing. A fun piece, full of invention but needing a clear acoustic for total enjoyment.
Walton’s entertainment Façade needs little introduction, but again, one wished to hear the eccentric nonsense words for full satisfaction. Frustration rose as we sympathised with the soloist’s splendid efforts to communicate.
It is well to remember that originally the words were delivered through a megaphone – perhaps this would have been the answer here?
But the players rose to the occasion and some excellent solos were forthcoming, whether smoochy or rhythmical all were characterful.