Those of us lucky enough to live in Thirsk in North Yorkshire are not just fortunate in our Vet, our glorious surrounding scenery and our proximity to York and Opera North in Leeds; we also have the enterprising Sowerby Music society, which schedules an impressive range of recitals and concerts in the lovely setting of St Oswald’s Church, set on the village’s grass-verged, spring-flower-filled main street. This Sunday’s recital featured the baritone Theodore Platt, the winner of many song competitions and soon to be a member of the Munich State Opera, and his frequent accompanist, the absurdly young and prodigiously gifted Keval Shah. If you haven’t yet heard of either, you very soon will.
Both singer and pianist share a love for the songs of Hugo Wolf, as does your reviewer, so it was a pity that only the encore, a beautifully judged ‘Gebet,’ featured this composer. Keval is an Edison Fellow at the British Library, researching changing trends in the recording of Wolf’s songs, so one can look forward to future carefully planned programmes by this youthful partnership.
Sunday’s programme began with a Brahms selection, of which ‘Wie bist du, meine Königin’ was the outstanding performance, lovingly played and very touchingly sung – perhaps just a little more might be given to the repeated ‘Wonnevoll!’ but this was otherwise very fine indeed. If one might venture a criticism of Theodore’s singing, it is that he has an absolutely huge voice, thunderously powerful in the manner of Hvorostovsky (he is half Russian) which he sometimes lets rip to the extent that one is taken aback. It’s natural to want to flaunt such a resource, but there were times when this – perhaps delicate – audience was a bit taken aback!
He was completely at home in the Rachmaninov group; the last singer we heard in these songs was the great Dmitri himself, and it’s praise indeed for young Mr Platt, that he lived up to his predecessor’s standards. The five songs were strongly contrasted in style and subject matter, and both singer and accompanist did them full justice. After a short pause, we had a Schumann group which was remarkable for its musicality and ability to conjure up very differing moods. ‘Belsatzar’ is a fiendishly difficult song, not only in terms of its declamatory vocal style but also its demanding piano part; both artists succeeded in conveying the power of this music and its bitter, at times brutal emotions.
Schumann’s ‘Venetianische Lieder’ were performed with grace and wit, as were the songs in the French group which followed, the outstanding interpretation here being Ravel’s ‘Le Paon.’ Three Songs by Samuel Barber brought the scheduled programme to a close; the small but appreciative audience would have been happy to hear many more.