A concert which could so easily not have happened - first, Fran sustained a hip injury which meant that she had to sing sitting down and then, on just two days notice, her planned accompanist had to pull out. What an amazing job was done by Matthew Stanley who gave a masterclass in the accompanist role despite only seeing the music 24 hours in advance!
I noticed a number of keen local singers among our audience and they were clearly impressed by what they heard. Fran is still studying, currently at Royal Holloway and soon at the Royal College of Music, so it is no criticism to suggest that her voice is still developing, but she has a beautiful tone in the mid-register that gave a delightful floating quality to the 'dreamier' pieces, such as Robert Schumann's Meine Rose or the more contemporary Michael Head's A Green Cornfield.
But her liking for musical theatre was never far below the surface, even in the romantic repertoire. Faure's Le papillon et la fleur was, well, hammed up a bit and none the worse for becoming almost a comic song. Fran made a splendidly dangerous Lorelei in Clara Schumann's song of that title, and brought the same composer's Liebeszauber to passionate life. Chabrier's Toutes les Fleurs! received the full operatic treatment and made a glorious finale, "worthy of Nero drowning his dinner guests in rose-petals" to steal from the sleeve notes to Hyperion's recording. My favourite song, though, was Richard Strauss' Schlagende Herzen, full of terrific interplay between singer and pianist. It was one of three songs by Strauss which gave Matthew Stanley some real alpine peaks to scale, although Liszt's Enfant, si j'etais roi also brought forth an extraordinary thunderous bass line from the piano.
So, an evening of very great pleasure - and our huge thanks to both performers for their determination that the show must go on!
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