Moments of levity and tenderness

PUBLISHED: 18:22 13 May 2008 | UPDATED: 21:49 15 June 2010

Annual general meetings are a fact of life and something that has to be endured. But Seaton Music sugars the pill by providing a concert and wine to follow.

Annual general meetings are a fact of life and something that has to be endured.

But Seaton Music sugars the pill by providing a concert and wine to follow. This year the visiting artists for the occasion were the young soprano Nicola Wydenbach, accompanied by pianist Joyce Clarke.

This duo impressed when they performed at Sidmouth a few months ago and again, at Seaton, they gave a delightfully refreshing recital. The song recital is one of the most difficult tasks a singer can undertake, for she has to hold the stage with her presence throughout.

Of each song, she has to make a little dramatic cameo, using her personality to project the content and meaning of the words to the audience. With lieder sung in German this becomes especially important.

In the main, Nicola Wydenbach succeeded very well in her task, but there were occasions when she relied too much on the music alone to get the message across. She displayed her voice well with moments of tenderness, power and levity.

And we must not forget the all important role of the pianist. Joyce Clarke accompanied with complete understanding and support throughout.

The recital opened with two songs by Clara Schumann, a talented composer who has always been overshadowed by her husband Robert. The first was her setting of the legend of the Rhine rock, Lorelei. Then it was Robert's turn with his great song-cycle Frauenliebe und Leben: his tribute to his new wife for whom he had battled so long to possess. Here the singer has the task of interpreting the stages of a woman's life and love, from the first stirrings, to marriage, motherhood and finally, bereavement.

More recent fare was provided in the second half of the programme, starting with Benjamin Britten's settings of words by WH Auden which he entitled On This Island. The great variety in this group was well brought out and the perkiness of As it is, plenty, particularly so.

Songs by the American composers Samuel Barber and George Gershwin brought the recital to an end. The Gershwin songs illustrated the performers' ability to switch easily to a different style and his updated setting of the Lorelei legend brought the programme full circle back to where it had started.

John Dalton

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