Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us


James Gilchrist
Anna Tilbrook

Blackheath Halls 6 March 2005 and Finzi recital on CD


Purcell realized by Britten and Tippett:
If music be the food of love (Tippett)
Music for a while (Tippett)
O solitude (Britten)

Peter Warlock and Ivor Gurney:
Warlock - Sleep (John Fletcher)
Gurney - Bread and Cherries (Walter de la Mare)
Warlock - Rest, sweet Nymphs (Anon)
Gurney - The folly of being comforted (W. B. Yeats)
Warlock - Cradle song (John Philip)
Warlock - Take, oh take those lips away (Shakespeare)
Gurney - Sleep (John Fletcher)

Oh Fair to See (Seven Songs by Various Poets) by Gerald Finzi:
I'll say I'll seek her (Thomas Hardy)
Oh Fair to See (Christina Rossetti)
As I lay in the early sun (Edward Shanks)
Only the wanderer (Ivor Gurney)
To Joy (Edmund Blunden)
Harvest (Edmund Blunden)
Since we Loved (Robert Bridges)

The English tenor, James Gilchrist, who has switched from medicine to music, has built a versatile career as a tenor soloist; I enjoyed listening him beforehand this morning in John Eliot Gardiner's Bach Pilgrimage CDs. Anna Tilbrook is a distinguished opera repetiteur and vocal coach, and her partnership with Gilchrist demonstrated thorough preparation and perfect rapport. Gilchrist has an individual, slightly grainy tenor, and a way of conveying the full value of his texts, and Tilbrook maintains a steady pulse and colours her accompaniments, voicing the chords to bring out the piquancy of these composers' harmonies.

The programme of English song, an underrated quarry, was given with generous applause after each of the three groups. Gilchrist made pertinent comments in an easy conversational way, stressing the pioneering promotion of Purcell by Tippett and Britten at a time when his music was the province of specialists and almost unknown to the general musical public.

A completely satisfying Sunday morning recital; a modest audience of Blackheath stalwarts, without the local Trinity College of Music students in evidence, to their loss.

The programme book was good in focusing attention to the individuality of the three composers (two of whom succumbed to severe mental illness) and the posthumous Finzi selection whetted the appetite for this splendid duo's Finzi recital, soon to be released by Linn.*

* A lovely disc of 24 songs, which brings together A young Man's Exhortation, the first of his Hardy sets for voice and piano to be published, with two posthumous compilations of Finzi's fastidious song settings, which should be heard far more often. They often stayed in his 'bottom drawer' for years before reaching the light.

Gerald Finzi was less concerned to add to the poems he loved than to share them with other music lovers; he believed that fine poems were complete in themselves, and his approach is 'only to gild the lily'.

Diction and piano/voice balance is superb, and Linn supplies all the words in their elegant booklet, with a sympathetic and well informed introduction by Philip Lancaster. I have chosen to reproduce an inside picture in which Anna Tilbrook's name is in small print, but not so small as on the cover image (a deplorable habit of arts editors).

Listen on line to three of the songs [Linn CKD 253].


© Peter Grahame Woolf