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Geoffrey Parsons 10th Anniversary Memorial Concert: Various composers, Yvonne Kenny, Sir Thomas Allen, Graham Johnson, Wigmore Hall, January 26th 2005 (ME)

‘As I walked onto the stage, I used to feel this aura shimmering behind me…’ – thus Thomas Allen on performing with Geoffrey Parsons, and as Sir Thomas said, we were all still aware of the Parsons aura on this evening marking the tenth anniversary of the great man’s death: the concert was given in aid of the Geoffrey Parsons Memorial Trust, which exists to encourage the art of the accompanist amongst young pianists, and all the performers were donating their services.

Owing to the indisposition of the tenor John Mark Ainsley, it fell to Thomas Allen to sing Haydn’s ‘Five English Canzonettas’, which he did with plenty of charm, although it was not until ‘Sympathy’ that he sounded entirely at home: his voice is absolutely right for this song whose urgent rapid accompaniment looks forward to Beethoven. ‘She never told her love’ was finely phrased, with words such as ‘concealment’ and ‘smiling at grief’ given the ideal vocal colour – indeed I thought Allen’s singing of this particular song superior to Ainsley’s on the Hyperion recording – quite an achievement for a stand – in performance on the night. ‘Sailor’s song’ was perhaps not quite jolly enough, and Graham Johnson seemed to be having his work cut out with the rumbustious piano part.

Yvonne Kenny’s singing of ‘Frühlingsglaube’ in the following Schubert group was nicely done but conveyed no sense of the melancholy inherent in the music, the required tenderness being amply supplied by Johnson’s playing, which was exquisitely tentative. The open good humour and warmth of the following ‘An mein Klavier’ suited Miss Kenny much better. Allen’s performance of his Brahms group was characterized by musicality and seriousness rather than the rapturous intensity needed in the closing moments of ‘Meine Liebe ist grün’ and ‘Botschaft’. The Mahler group which closed the first half of the concert provided some beautiful singing especially in ‘Ich ging mit Lust’.

Yvonne Kenny began the second half with songs by Reynaldo Hahn: Johnson delightfully describes ‘A Chloris’ as ‘the summit of Hahn’s art as a pasticheur’ and some of us might wish to omit the last three words of that definition, since this is an exquisite song, whether or not one considers the lovely accompaniment to be a Bach imitation or simply influenced by the master – whatever, Johnson played it wonderfully, his touch once gain supplying the tenderness which was sometimes lacking in the voice. Allen then contributed a fine group of English songs, including a beautifully judged ‘Hey, ho the wind and the rain’ (Quilter).

Three of Copland’s arrangements were sweetly sung by Yvonne Kenny although some might find her interpretation here a touch too ‘arty’ for these direct expressions of simple feelings. The closing Cole Porter group was clearly much appreciated by the audience, most of whom must already have been Wigmore regulars when ‘Kiss me Kate’ was premiered in 1948.

Melanie Eskenazi



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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)