Friday, July 24, 2020

Guest Reviewer, David Truslove

This recital from a candlelit All Saints’ Church, Helmsley (on the southern edge of the North Yorkshire Moors and a stone’s throw from Rievaulx Abbey) was the sixth of eight daily Ryedale broadcasts from Sunday July 19. The programme combined English art- and folk-song with Lieder, a healing-to-hope traversal (via love and loss) that could be seen as an emotional road map for Covid-19.

Rowan Pierce began with Purcell’s Music for a While; its text – outlining music’s capacity to sooth – was not immediately apparent in a slightly too fast tempo and some uncertain tuning. But the great hymn to isolation, O Solitude, revealed this soprano’s clarity of diction and purity of tone, amply supported by Christopher Glynn’s increasingly elaborate accompaniment.

The joys and pains of love articulated through nature formed the next group of songs, Pierce buoyant and radiant in Schubert’s optimistic Im Haine (its blithe melody beautifully delineated) and underlining the vulnerability inherent in Schumann’s Du bist wie eine blume. Mendelssohn’s Auf Flügeln des Gesanges (On wings of Song) bowled along nicely, its youthful dreams persuasively rendered. Vocal agility and emotional heartache were plentiful in Richard Strauss’s Ich wollt’ ein Sträusslein binden, also tenderness in Grieg’s soulful Zur Rosenzeit.

Following a trio of folksongs including a flowing account of Blow the Wind Southerly (long associated with Kathleen Ferrier), Pierce segued into a group of sentimental offerings. John Ireland’s If There were Dreams and Alan Murray’s I’ll Walk Beside You formed an oblique prayer for audiences and artists to be reunited – reiterated verbally by Pierce’s own heartfelt plea. Roger Quilter’s Loves Philosophy was suitably rousing and the sense of loss in Flanders & Swann’s The Slow Train (written in response to Dr Beeching’s countrywide closure of railway lines and stations in the early-1960s) was exquisitely captured, “Dog Dyke” and “Tumby Woodside” perfectly articulated.

By the end Pierce’s own emotions were not hard to decipher. And what more apt way to close this event than with Strauss’s Morgen!, beginning “And tomorrow the sun will shine again”, Pierce and Glynn’s artistry bringing a lump to the throat, available to view until August 16.