Heart songs: Elizabeth Llewellyn & Simon Lepper; Isata Kanneh-Mason

As soon as I read about ‘Heart and Hereafter’, Elizabeth Llewellyn’s debut recital album on Orchid Classics, I was excited and intrigued to hear it – for three main reasons. First, I had seen and heard her give a magnificent performance in the title role of Verdi’s ‘Luisa Miller’ for English National Opera back in…

Set free?

A couple of evenings before writing this, I had the privilege of attending the first art song recital with a live audience at London’s Wigmore Hall since it re-opened to socially-distanced audiences in line with the UK’s current ‘roadmap’ for ending lockdown. The concert was an all-Schubert progamme, performed by soprano Carolyn Sampson and pianist…

Lieder column: some recent art song releases

A slight change of pace for this piece. Blogging is a privilege that allows us – without any oppressive deadlines or word count restrictions – to immerse ourselves in individual releases when approaching each article. That said, it also makes me acutely aware of those times when there’s a run of discs I love, and…

Role players: Carolyn Sampson & Joseph Middleton, ‘Album für die Frau’

A great art song recital can be exactly that: top-notch performances of beautiful works. On this recording, we find Sampson in exquisite voice, Middleton’s playing as impeccable as ever, and the songs featured are a tribute to the duo’s ongoing flair for engaging, informative programming, live and on disc. However, this time round, the central…

Pastoral, personal, political: Sieben before, during and beyond lockdown

Matt Howden is a Sheffield-based singer, songwriter, composer, violinist, looping/sequencing technology expert, and teacher/practitioner of sound design and production. An independent, unstoppable musical force who somehow finds enough room under the radar to soar, he is always unpredictable, always reliable. One might have thought the restrictions imposed by the pandemic would slow him down a…

Past presence: Dead Space Chamber Music and Kate Arnold

Two brilliantly-timed records that for me sum up the word ‘spirit’: both in the eerie, evocative atmospheres they conjure up, and the sheer inventive brio with which the music was created. * Dead Space Chamber Music are an intriguing collective from Bristol, UK, who seemingly belong to all genres or none. Within the first few…

Spired and emotional: the Oxford Lieder Festival 2020

On paper, the Oxford Lieder festival (wholly online this year, for contagious reasons) ended about a month ago. But not for me. Right up to the last minute, I’ve been extracting the maximum value I possibly can from my catch-up pass, viewing as many concerts as possible before the on-demand video archive finally vanishes from…

Mystery lays: Stef Conner, ‘Riddle Songs’

This startling, life-affirming record somehow manages a feat that has otherwise eluded science so far: time travel. Stef Conner has composed a suite of songs that demonstrate how, through the arts, the past is all there, all at once, running parallel to our present. What are its secrets? A bit of background (although Conner’s liner…