Joseph Middleton piano
All Saints Church
Schumann Frauenliebe und -leben
Berlioz Les nuits d’été
Copland Poems of Emily Dickinson
Bennett The History of the Thé Dansant
This was a rare festival opportunity to hear one of the great vocal artists of our time in a recital which encapsulated her stunning versatility. Filled with poise and perfect diction Connolly took us on a sensuous journey of the delightfully domestic, romantic and ethereal wonders of the program of songs.
Joined by pianist Joseph Middleton, Sarah Connolly juxtaposed the exquisitely drawn sensibilities of Schumann’s charting of a woman’s life, from awakening love to widowhood, against the sensuous sound world of Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été, permeated by lost love. Poulenc, Copland and Richard Rodney Bennet offer a perfect 20th century balance for the first half’s romance and Copland’s setting of the poetry of Emily Dickinson a highlight of the evening, their performance of ‘Going to Heaven’ was utterly superb and is a highlight of my festival so far.
There was hefty representation from the gay composers tonight and the spread of their works balanced the simple but strong lyricism of the first half, with a wonderfully witty encore of a James Fenton poem offered up with panache. This was an evening of quality, musical excellence and pure vocal joy which showcased her command of the communicative power of lieder.
All Saints is a vast venue but still has the ability to feel intimate and was well lit to play down its high vaults, this went a long way to allowing the domestic, intimate settings of these pieces to be allowed to blossom and Connolly’s voice carried with ease in and out of the Gothic tracery.
For more info on the Brighton Festival see their website here.