Nick Pritchard’s late-night Oxford Lieder recital of generally gentle and melancholy tinged songs

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Oxford Lieder Festival 2022 [7] – Gurney, Rebecca Clarke, Ian Venables, Finzi: Nick Pritchard (tenor), Ian Tindale (piano). New College Chapel, Oxford 21.10.2022. (CR)

Gurney – Five Elizabethan Songs

Rebecca Clarke – Down by the Salley Gardens; The Seal Man; God made a tree

Ian Venables – A Kiss, Op.15; Pain, Op.10; Flying Crooked, Op.28 No.1

Finzi – Oh Fair to See, Op.13b

In this late-night recital Nick Pritchard sang a group of songs whose generally gentle and melancholy tinged character suited the subdued ambience of the antechapel of New College in nocturnal hush. Even the three items by contemporary composer Ian Venables fitted in well with the others, all generally written in the modal, folksong-inflected idiom of the first part of the twentieth century that was one English answer to other forms of musical Modernism elsewhere.

Each group of songs was well honed by Pritchard and Ian Tindale, having been performed by them on various occasions previously, and all here sung by the former from memory. His clean, honestly projected singing matched the often-guileless innocence and charm of the words set, particularly in Gurney’s sequence of five Elizabethan songs, enabling particular phrases or words to be emphasised with warm or wider vibrato, or deeper expressivity as occasion required. The timeless, simple quality of Rebecca Clarke’s setting of ‘Down by the Salley Gardens’, like a folksong, rightly received a smoothly sustained performance, whilst Venables’s Pain, to words by Gurney, was effective also for not artificially underlining the tortured words and ideas expressed but expounded with unaffected eloquence.

Pritchard maintained a similar easeful delivery in Finzi’s cycle Oh Fair to See but imbued with a touch of regret or solemnity to distinguish the composer’s sophisticated setting of words from mere artlessness. Tindale’s support was sympathetic and alert, bringing life and colour to these well-crafted pieces, and adding its own commentary to the texts.

Curtis Rogers

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