Soprano, trumpet and organ aid lunchtime digestion

Handel: ‘The Trumpet’s Loud Clangour’ (from Ode to St Cecilia’s Day)
Bach/Gounod: ‘Ave Maria’
Saint-Saëns: ‘Ave Maria’
Mozart: ‘Laudate Dominum’ (from Vesperae Solennes de Confessore)
Handel: Trumpet Concerto in G minor
Fauré: ‘Pie Jesu’ (from Requiem)
Stanley: Trumpet Voluntary
Handel: ‘Let the Bright Seraphim’ (from Samson)

Clarissa Dunn (soprano)
Paul Rosoman (organ and piano)
Andrew Weir (trumpet)

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 17 November 2010, 12.15pm

With an interesting programme for an unusual combination, this programme had added appeal for the opportunity to hear and see someone we know as a disembodied voice on radio; Clarissa Dunn is a presenter for Radio New Zealand Concert.

The recital began and ended with performances from the gallery, using the fine church organ.  Clarissa Dunn proved to have a full, florid voice with a velvety quality except in the highest register.  She could hold her own against the organ; Handel did not make her compete with the trumpet part in the first piece.

The well-known Gounod arrangement of Bach’s prelude by the addition of a melody on the words ‘Ave Maria’ received a rather mushy organ registration – but perhaps that was appropriate for Gounod.  Unfortunately the singer sang some of the time just slightly under the note, spoiling an otherwise good performance, which ended with delicious pianissimo.

There were no intonation problems in Saint-Saëns’s setting of the same words.  This was sung from the front of the church, with a rather pedestrian and over-pedalled piano accompaniment – perhaps the sudden switch from organ affected the playing.  A good point was that the lid was down; often at St Andrew’s recently the sound from the piano has been too loud, due to the resonance from the varnished wooden floor.

The trumpet stood in for the mezzo-soprano of the original setting.  Andrew Weir’s control of volume when playing with the soprano was exemplary.  Both performers proved to have excellent control of breath and dynamics.  Flowing lines were beautifully carried on the breath by the singer.

The exquisite ‘Laudate Dominum’ of Mozart was sung admirably, given the limitations of performing with piano rather than orchestra.

A trumpet concerto by Handel followed (which I cannot find in Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians); this time the organ part was played on the baroque organ at the front of the church.  The balance between the instruments was splendid , and the use of a two-foot stop in the fast second movement gave a charming effect.  The playing was commendably light and baroque in style, making for a thoroughly enjoyable performance.

Now for something completely different: the delightful ‘Pie Jesu’ of Fauré, sung with organ from the gallery.  Again, some notes were a shade flat, and there was some unevenness towards the end, but on the whole the singing was most accomplished.

John Stanley’s piece showed both trumpet and organ off well, in its bouncy, eighteenth century manner, but it is a rather uninspired piece of music.

Handel’s ‘Let the bright seraphim’ made a rousing end to the recital.  At the beginning I found the organ a little too loud, but it soon modified, and Clarissa Dunn was vocally equal to it.  Both trumpet and singer had their trills all in place; the organ-playing was very fine also.  The words were not clear, but they a difficult to get over in such a florid work.

It was a pity to have neither programme notes nor brief biographies of the performers.  However, Clarissa Dunn gave spoken introductions to the works, in an informal, engaging manner.

I hope to hear more from these three accomplished performers, who are to be congratulated on their interesting and varied programme.

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