Classical music reviewed by Mike Wheeler

Lunchtime concerts Derby Cathedral

In the first of this year’s series of its Friday lunchtime concerts, on May 12, Derby Cathedral further cemented its relationship with Sinfonia Viva.

Two members of the orchestra, Rachel Holt, flute and Anna Christensen, harp, played a programme with a strong dance element, including a sonata by Benedetto Marcello ending with a delightfully skippy gigue; Cinq Nuances by Marc Berthomieu, including an engaging waltz and tango; another waltz, the delicious Danse Lente by Joseph Jongen, and John Marson’s Suite for flute and harp, with its nicely bright and bouncy third movement, Can’t Stop to Talk.

On May 19, violin-and-organ duo Lucy Philips and Mark Swinton included music by two Bachs. Johann Sebastian’s well-loved Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, was taken at a somewhat over-stately pace better suited to the aria Erbame Dich from the St Matthew Passion, that followed.

In Biber’s solo violin Passacaglia, Lucy Philips was more successful at projecting individual moments than its overall shape. Mark Swinton brought some elegantly turned phrases and piquant registrations to an organ sonata by Johann Sebastian’s youngest son, Johann Christian, before the two came together again for Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, where their somewhat hesitant start was not inappropriate.

The University of Nottingham String Quartet, comprising first and second-year undergraduates, made its public debut on the 26th in Borodin’s Quartet No 2.

Their lovely gentle opening augured well for the rest, with a beautifully judged final cadence. A lighter touch in the second movement will come, while the central waltz already had a delightful swaying feel.

The song-like nature of the third movement and the quartet’s pacing of the finale were well followed through. There were some technically insecure moments but the group was able to pull the performance back into focus with aplomb.

Two song recitals followed. On June 2, another Nottingham University undergraduate, soprano Rebecca Sarginson, and Hugh Morris, piano, began by highlighting the variety of mood and characterisation in Mozart’s aria Voi Avete un Cor fidele, before moving on to some soulful Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov. Sarginson navigated with ease the athletic vocalise of Saint-Saëns’ Le Rossignol et la Rose, showed an innate feel for the theatricality of Purcell’s ‘Tell me, Some Pitying Angel’, and caught the rarefied atmosphere of Vaughan Williams’ The New Ghost.

Harriet Russ, soprano, and George Gatford, baritone, both students at Derby’s VoiceBox, were joined, again, by Hugh Morris at the piano on June 9.

At this very early stage in their careers they are both accomplished singers, while each has specific areas of the voice that will doubtless mature.

Harriet Russ relished some arching phrases in Quilter’s June, melancholy in Debussy’s Il Pleure dans mon Coeur, dance in Richard Hageman’s Belloc setting, Miranda, and a lightly ironic touch in Britten’s Johnny, while George Gatford was forceful in Schubert’s Afenthalt, moving and dignified in Finzi’s Fear No More the Heat o’the Sun, bringing a powerful ending to Stars, from Les Misérables.