Review: Soraya Mafi (soprano) & Adrian Kelly (piano), Buxton

Soraya Mafi was born in Manchester. Her mother is Irish and her father Iranian. She brings an interesting cultural heritage to her singing and performance. Adrian Kelly is in his first year as the Buxton International Festival’s Artistic Director and his impact has been immediate and positive.
Soraya, pictured above, chose a programme of short and accessible songs that acknowledged her dual heritage. The first half included settings by Schumann, Schubert, Wolf, Bizet, Fauré and Saint- Saens that drew on texts originating in the Middle East. The Wolf lieder, for example, were of translations by Goethe. It is very much a matter of preference but for me the French compositions seemed better suited to the source material. The Germanic work sounding emphatically European.
For the second half Soraya’s choice of Irish texts included a number of more familiar pieces. In contrast with the first half the compositions by Stanford, Harty, Britten, Moeran, Dunhill and Bax were less decorative and left the melodies to speak for themselves. It may be a matter of familiarity but the ‘Irish’ pieces had a greater warmth and humanity; others might call it sentimentality.
Again it’s a matter of choice when it comes to picking highlights but the Britten settings of How sweet the answer and The last rose of summer were a particular joy.
Soraya was recovering from a cold and perhaps sang within herself but the audience at the Pavilion Arts Centre received her with warmth and enthusiasm. Adrian Kelly showed himself to be a delicate and sympathetic accompanist. This was a fine and thoroughly enjoyable lunchtime recital.
By Keith Savage