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Royal Academy of Music

Lunchtime Recital & afternoon Masterclass

18 September 2012

It was serendipitous to discover that a couple of days later the Leporello String Quartet was going to perform at RAM the Schumann quartet which they had studied with Paul Watkins.

And even more so to find on arrival that half an hour afterwards, soprano Dame Ann Murray was to give a vocal masterclass [do enjoy her on YouTube !].

The quartet played late Haydn and Schumann's No 1 very well for a capacity lunch-time audience of about a hundred, most of whom remained for the singing. The quartet was pleased to learn afterwards that Musical Pointers had covered both events.

The vocal class was the most rewarding I can remember having attended, all the better because during the morning Ann Murray had worked individually with each of the experienced student singers she was coaching. This enabled her to continue with greater concentration in the half-hour rota; she warned us that she would not attend to the audience and might turn her back on us; "each of the singers could get a job tomorrow" she told us before starting.

Ann Murray's method was astonishingly effective, working at high speed and with total focused intensity on short representative passages of recits, arias and songs.

Ann Harvey improved her assumption of Mozart's Cherubino, and Céline Forrest perfected a stunning account of Non mir di from Don Giovanni, and she floated some phrases of Strauss's Morgen to ravishing effect.

After Sarah-Jane Lewis' initial nervousness, Ann Murray helped her towards a beautiful rendition of Duparc (I was unable to stay to the end of the class). Ann Harvey and counter-tenor Simon Ponsford were helped to make Handel items far more dramatic than they'd conceived them (Simon Ponsford is a future star to watch!).

The only regret was that these lessons were not being recorded for the students to revise their wisdoms, that photography is banned and, indeed, that the whole event was not videoed; it was of such a high calibre that, after editing, would have made one of the very best contributions in The Masterclass Media Foundation collection, to which Stephen Hough has contributed at RAM.

Peter Grahame Woolf