London Song Festival, St Paul’s Covent Garden - music review
Two of the most talented singers of the younger generation performed songs of
war and peace by Britten and Poulenc, bookended by Schubert
Young talent: Ruby Hughes joined forces with David Butt
Philip for the London Song Festival
Ruby Hughes and David Butt Philip, two of the most talented singers of the
younger generation, shared the platform at last night’s London Song Festival
recital. The programme, devised by the festival’s founder-director Nigel Foster,
was an imaginative one featuring songs of war and peace by Britten and Poulenc,
bookended by Schubert lieder.
A selection of Poulenc’s wartime songs was effectively interspersed with
Britten’s Holy Sonnets of John Donne. Philip, who has only recently undertaken a
transition from baritone to tenor, deployed a resonant baritonal register in
Batter my Heart and Death, be not Proud; the result strongly suggested that when
his vocal transformation is complete he will be in command of an exceptionally
versatile, solidly based instrument.
Hughes meanwhile offered a foil by way of lighter (albeit elegiac) fare by
Poulenc. It may not be her strongest suit, though her flirtatious Violon
(Violin) was undeniably alluring.
The equally bold programming of the second half, interweaving Britten’s Seven
Michelangelo Sonnets with his Charm of Lullabies, paid off handsomely. Philip
reached an emotional peak in Sonnet XXIV (Spirto ben nato), in a delivery that
throbbed with positively operatic passion, while Hughes’ rendering of The
Nurse’s Song, a whispering lullaby that rose to an expressive climax, also
showed her at her considerable best.
A quartet of songs by Schubert in sublime mode, the two singers joining
forces in Du Bist die Ruh, brought the recital to a conclusion of raptness and
quietude. Foster complemented his ingenious programming with accomplished,
sentient piano playing throughout.
Two recitals and a Roger Vignoles masterclass follow in the coming days.