Farewell Concert for pianist Catherine Norton

With Lesley Graham, Daniel O’Connor, Craig Beardsworth, Amelia Berry, Frances Moore, Megan Corby, Felicity Smith, Olga Gryniewicz, James Adams, and Rose Blake

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Sunday, 1 August, 1.30pm

It must have been very gratifying to Catherine Norton to have had  such a line-up of established and emerging singers to sing, as she said in her short speech, songs where she chose the music, not the singers.  These were her favourites.

The programme began with Rossini’s La regata veneziana, made famous by another farewell concert – Gerald Moore’s farewell to the concert platform, when the singers were Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Victoria de los Angeles.  Lesley Graham and Linden Loader’s matched so beautifully, as ever, and they made gestures appropriate to the words.  With a fine, strong accompaniment, this item gave a good start to the concert.

Daniel O’Connor followed with Les berceaux, by Fauré.  A lovely song, with a beautiful accompaniment, it was well performed apart from some harshness on the top notes, which might have disturbed the babies to whom the lullabies might be sung.

Debussy’s Romance showed what a fine singer Craig Beardsworth is.  His French was very clear, and he sang the song exquisitely.  In this item only, I felt that the accompaniment had a little too much pedal.   Otherwise, Catherine Norton’s accompaniments were absolutely first class.

Amelia Berry followed with a very tasteful pair of songs by Ravel.  She demonstrated the moods of the songs well.

Schubert’s Suleika II was Frances Moore’s contribution.  Again, this song gave the accompanist opportunity to make a great contribution.  The voice was well produced, with good tone and clear words.

Daniel O’Connor returned with Wolf’s Auf einer Wanderung.  He got good expression into the words, and the sprightly accompaniment was most enjoyable.

There were a couple of forays into opera; these two, being ensembles, suffered from the lack of orchestra, but nevertheless the extended sequence from Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier sung by Amelia Berry (as Octavian), Megan Corby (as Sophie) and Felicity Smith (as the Marschallin) was very powerful (perhaps a little too much for this acoustic), and came across well.

Amelia Berry followed with a strong but appealing performance of ‘O wüsst’ ich doch den Weg zurück’ by Brahms.

Rachmaninov was represented by Loneliness, sung in Russian by Olga Gryniewicz in very passionate style.

The first half concluded with the other opera excerpt – ‘Mir ist so wunderbar’ from Fidelio by Beethoven, with Frances Moore (Marzelline), Felicity Smith (Leonore), James Adams (Jaquino) and Craig Beardsworth (Rocco).  It was very sensitively sung and accompanied, and made a fitting end to a fine recital.

After the interval, the songs were all in English.  Mostly, the words were clear, but not always. 

Rose Blake commenced with Jenny McLeod’s ‘Tyger, Tyger’ (words, appropriately, by William Blake), to which she gave plenty of drama and feeling.

Megan Corby and James Adams followed with two appealing songs by Samuel Barber.  Adams has a very fine tenor voice, which he knows how to use: powerful when required, but never ugly.  He has great control, and his expression through the words was superb.  His Solitary Hotel was an imaginative song, well performed.

Frances Moore made a good job of David Farquhar’s innovative ‘Princess Alice’, and the amusing ‘Old Sir Faulk’ by William Walton with words by Edith Sitwell was fun at the hands of Rose Blake.

Ending on a more popular note, we had Megan Corby acting and singing superbly in style Song of a Nightclub Proprietress by Madeleine Dring, followed by Gershwin’s ‘Just another rhumba’ most amusingly and strongly communicated by Craig Beardsworth, and Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Maria’ was sung with great resonance by James Adams – a good way to end a fine concert.

The only real detraction from the recital, in my view, (apart from the small numbers attending) was that the names of the poets were not printed, which would have provided extra interest for the listeners.  Song is at least half words, and the writers should be credited.

Catherine Norton should have a fine career, and all music-lovers who have had the pleasure of hearing her accompaniments over the years would wish her well in her studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, in London.

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