Rosalind Coad and Gregory Drott

Concert date: 18 October 2013
Reviewed by: JRC

We can all, or nearly all, sing: so what makes a concert of songs special? A very trained voice, the choice of songs, the involvement of delivery; and, in this case, a highly talented accompanist.

Being the centenary of Benjamin Britten's birth, and that both Rosalind and Gregory were Britten-Pears Young Artists in 2012, it was appropriate that they commenced with Britten's cycle 'On this Island' [words by Auden]. Rosalind's voice was powerful and her phrasing and delivery were engaging.

We then had a selection of songs from the 19th Century including Schubert's very familiar 'The Trout' and Clara Schumann's 'Die Lorelei', which was effectively animated to the verge of melodrama. Contrasting with the Britten, this section of the programme, beginning and ending with Liszt's expansive flamboyance, gave a virtuosic challenge to the voice and an opportunity for the pianist to impress.

Following the interval was a musical sandwich of Joseph Marx [1882 – 1964] and Gabriel Faure which included Les Roses d'Isphahan. Being unfamiliar with the Marx songs, they were a particular treat, having a style of lushness I suspect is very unfashionable in some quarters. These gave Gregory Drott another chance to shine with surging ripples that would have given a harp a run for its money.

'Five songs by Brahms' was where I felt Rosalind's delivery was at its best. She portrayed a range of emotion, a conversation and a narrative style. As a non German-speaker these songs came alive to me: no mean feat.

The final section brought us back to English songs by Britten, Vaughan Williams and Bridge, with Quilter's 'Love's Philosophy' bringing the concert to a dramatic musical conclusion.

Rosalind Coad and Gregory Drott, sponsored by Oxford Lieder, will be performing in the Oxford Lieder Festival later this week. With Rosalind's voice, it is not too difficult to imagine her taking Verdi and Wagner roles at a younger age than most. Gregory already has a post as Director of Music at St Stephen's, Kensington, and is engaged in PhD studies in Cambridge: good to know that he also does freelance work so he will not be lost to concert halls.