Elizabeth Kenny

Review: Oxford Lieder Festival: October 10-17

Livestreaming music events has now become the new normal – and the Oxford Lieder Festival, which opened on Saturday, has set the bar exceptionally high. 

Ticket-holders can enjoy the same varied and brilliantly-conceived programming we’ve come to expect from this festival, linked by the theme Connections Across Time: A Brief History of Song.

Concerts are livestreamed from many of the Oxford venues associated with the festival, and all come complete with downloadable programme notes and other resources.

What the concerts lack in live audience atmosphere they make up for in the convenience of being able to watch from home at a time that suits you, as many times as you like. 

The first few days have, as ever, been jam-packed with events. The first evening concert featured mezzo-soprano Dame Sarah Connolly and regular accompanist Eugene Asti in a double bill of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und-leben and Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder, both of which Connolly delivered with her customary clarity and magnetism, her voice caressing the notes as she captured the sense of love, hopelessness and loss that pervades both pieces. 

Dame Sarah Connolly credit Christopher Pledger

Having heard baritone Roderick Williams singing the Schumann at Pyrton recently, it was interesting hearing the same piece sung by a different voice – both excellent, but endowing the words and notes with their own unique qualities.

the two concerts at Broughton Castle – the first time the festival has performed at this stunning medieval manor house – were a glorious experience

Connolly’s recital also featured emerging star William Thomas, whose gloriously rich bass and expressiveness was an absolute delight in songs by Schubert, Finzi, Quilter, Haydn and Bush.

Sholto Kynoch’s commitment to offering a platform to emerging artists is to be applauded, and is a welcome thread running through this year’s festival. 

Sholto Kynoch

For many of the concerts, the location is as much of an attraction as the programme. I was drawn to the two concerts at Broughton Castle – the first time the festival has performed at this stunning medieval manor house – and it was a glorious experience hearing first James Gilchrist (tenor) and Elizabeth Kenny (lute) performing works by Dowland, Campion, Schubert and others in the 16th century Oak Room, and later the Orlando Consort singing love songs by French composer Guillaume de Machaut in the atmospheric setting of the 14th century Great Hall. 

James Gilchrist. Pic by Jim Four

The Oxford Lieder Festival continues until October 17: still to come are baritone Ashley Riches singing Schubert’s celebrated Die Schöne Müllerin and Roderick Williams in a selection of settings by Thomas Hardy (both today October 16 at the Holywell Music Room), and tenor Christoph Prégardien bringing the festival to a close with Schubert’s Schwanengesang, with many other fascinating programmes in between.

All concerts are available to watch as livestreams or to catch up with later, up to November 1.

For details and tickets, visit www.oxfordlieder.co.uk

NICOLA LISLE

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