Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Cheltenham Music Festival

Another Festival has come round! The programme has something of an austerity feel about it: not many big names are in evidence. However, the subject matter lacks compromise, as evidenced by this evening's Parabola Arts Centre recital.

But was "recital" the right word for it? Normally, James Gilchrist (tenor) with a pianist for a set of English songs (Britten, Finzi, Tippett) would warrant that description, but here the accent was upon a stage setting of a "long and silent night passed by a nightwatchman", with grainy video as a backdrop: no interval, and no clapping save at the end. More Voix humaine than Winterreise.

The technical side went off splendidly, particularly the beautifully weighted singing of Gilchrist and Anna Tilbrook's accompaniment. But even with Gilchrist the words (all Hardy T. and Hudson W.H.) are never so distinguishable as one would like, and no "libretto" was on offer - nor even much of a programme note. So, I emerged rather baffled: what was the object of the exercise?

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