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Sarah Connolly live

Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano)
Julius Drake (piano)

Schumann Widmung; Die Lotosblume;
Hochländisches Wiegenlied
5 Gedichte der Konigin Maria Stuart

Frauenliebe und-Leben

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Howells Come sing and dance; King David
Gurney By a Bierside; Sleep

Britten A Charm of Lullabies

Bennett A history of the Thé Dansant
Poulenc encores

Temple Music at Middle Temple Hall, London, 14 October 2011

This was a great recital, one to remember and treasure for a lifetime. Sarah Connolly was in perfect voice, technically impeccable and conveying the emotions of every song to a rapt audience filling the grand Middle Temple Hall, which is acoustically excellent, and in which she judged the volume of her singing to perfection.

The programme, cunningly built with Julius Drake, creator and artistic director of Temple Song, was a satisfying mixture of familiar favourites and rarities. One rarity is the late, terminally ill Schumann's settings of poignant poems by Mary, Queen of Scots before her execution. At Temple Hall they were sung under a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, to which Penny Jonas drew our attention.

These, together with Frauenliebe und-Leben, are included in Sarah Connolly's extensive discography [Chandos 10492].

We were given reminders of the excellent songs of Herbert Howells and Ivor Gurney, the latter's composed in the trenches, 1916!

Britten's five lullabies, rather neglected amongst his great song cycles for men's voices, are typically eclectic in his choice of texts; the Burns Highland balou is to the same text as Schumann's disturbing Highland lullaby given in Sarah Connolly's first half - hear the Britten with Maureen Forrester on YouTube.

Check out The Temple Song Series, one of the most important regular dates for London lovers of singers and song; next in coming months will be James Gilchrist and Carolyn Sampson.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Sarah Connolly & Eugene Asti at St John's, Smith Square, London

Haydn Arianna a

Brahms Standchen; Da unten in Tale; Nachtanwandler; Feldeinsamkeit; Alte Liebe; Die Mainacht; Von ewige Liebe

Hahn A Chloris; L'Enamouree; Trois jours de vendange; L'Heure exquise; Quand je fus pris au pavillon

Korngold Gluckwunsch; Alt-Spanisch; Sterbelied; Gefasster abschied

Weill Lost in the stars; Speak low

Ireland Her song

Britten Tit for Tat

Signum Classics : SIGCD072 [75 mins Recorded October 2005]

Sarah Connolly recorded this recital live at St John's Smith Square in her belief that what a singer does in front of an audience is what counts, and in this case it counts for quite a lot. Her voice has positively blossomed recently, with a silky smoothness overlying crisp diction.

It's a wide ranging programme covering music dating from 1789 to 1968 and must surely contain something to suit everyone's taste and perhaps widen some horizons. With Eugene Asti, Haydn's Arianna two recitatives and two arias reflecting the emotional passage of Ariadne as she awakes to find herself alone and abandoned - becomes a miniature drama, invested with more sorrow than rage

The mood continues through the Brahms and Hahn songs, each presented with charm and distinction, but collectively a little heavy on grief. I welcomed the change of tempo with Trois jours de vendange and Quand je fus pris au pavillon.

Songs by Korngold and Weill give Connolly a chance to show off the full richness of her tone, and there is a luxurious feel to the way she stretches her voice to match the wistfulness in the poetry. She seems to have a real affinity for Weill; his two songs are most beautifully done leaving me wishing for more. They added two encores to their published programme, which make an equally appreciated bonus on the CD.

Eugene Asti provided superb support throughout, playing with elegance and assurance.

Serena Fenwick