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Renowned Countertenor Robin Blaze Performs Recital at Hampton Court House

On Thursday 7th March we were delighted to host a recital led by renowned countertenor Robin Blaze.

Robin has an established reputation as one of the leading interpreters of early music, and his career has taken him to concert halls and festivals in Europe, North and South America, Japan and Australia. His work with Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan has been particularly praised by critics: the two latest CD releases, Bach’s B Minor Mass and the three solo countertenor cantatas, have been described as “heart-stopping” in Gramophone magazine.

For the concert Robin invited HCH teachers Ralitsa Naydenova (violin and viola), Liam Crangle (our in-house accompanist), Aleksandra Timarov-Stanojevic (piano) and Kieran Brunt (voice). The opening piece, Johannes Brahms’ arrangement of his own Clarinet Sonata Op.120 No.2 for viola and piano, was a tour-de-force of music-making between Naydenova and Crangle. The breadth of variety in terms of tone and colour was a sheer pleasure to behold, and will have been very inspiring for the young string players in the audience.

Then followed a pair of two works by twentieth-century British composer, Benjamin Britten. This is not the first time that the HCH Main Hall has been treated to live performance of the composer’s work, as just two years ago we presented our own performance of the community opera, Noye’s Fludde.

The first Canticle we heard, Abraham and Isaac (No. III), draws from the same source as Noye’s Fludde for it’s text, the Chester Mystery Plays. Britten uses the two singers’ voices to play a total of three characters: Abraham (Brunt), Isaac (Blaze) and the voice of God (both singers together in very close harmony).

The second Cantle performed (No. IV), overheard to be a favourite amongst the audience in the interval, sets T. S. Eliot’s deadpan poem ‘Journey of the Magi’ to an equally witty and austere musical re-imagination. For this piece Blaze and Brunt were joined by Augustus Perkins Ray, who impressed all with his formidable bass-baritone. When combined, the three voices presented a twisted barbershop trio of Magi, complaining about the mundane hardships faced on their journey to visit the newborn Christ child. Liam Crangle’s piano playing humorously evoked the irregular stumbling of camel hooves, whilst also bringing an air of transcendence to the piece’s only musical allusion to Christianity: the ‘Magi Videntes Stellam’, an antiphon played in eery octaves as it floats over the singers’ quizzical ruminations.

After the interval the trio of singers and pianist were joined by soprano Lisa Beckley and pianist Aleksandra Timarov Stanojevic for final piece of the evening, Brahms’ ebullient ‘Liebeslieder Waltzer’ Op. 52 for quartet and four-hands piano. Creating textures that ranged from rich and complex to light and airy, the performers led us through these nineteen miniature pieces with charm and wit, the latter particularly in the twelfth setting, whose text reads: ‘Locksmith, come, make me padlocks, padlocks without number!
So that once and for all I can shut their malicious mouths. ‘

We are very grateful to Robin Blaze all of the performers for sharing these stories and their talents with us in this concert, and bringing professional performing to the intimacy of our Main Hall.