Review: Concert at St Peter’s Church, Wolfhamcote

Concert at St Peter's Church, Wolfhamcote, Saturday, October 15.''William Griffiths, tenor, and Susie Allan, piano.
Concert at St Peter's Church, Wolfhamcote, Saturday, October 15.''William Griffiths, tenor, and Susie Allan, piano.

St Peter’s Church, Wolfhamcote has to be the most romantic venue for a concert in the Midlands.

A redundant church isolated in the middle of unspoilt countryside approached either on foot or by winding single track road over the meadow. It is blessed with an acoustic ideally suited to small scale works and in particular to the human voice.

Saturday October 15 was a quite exceptional day with perfect summery weather and warm light throughout the afternoon. These two auspicious circumstances were perfectly complemented by the music that we heard.

The main work was Beethoven’s song cycle “An die ferne Geliebte” (To the absent beloved) Op 90, a setting of words by Alois Jeitteles. A late work, this song cycle is unashamedly romantic and prepares the way for the great (and far longer) song cycles of Schubert to come.

Comprising six songs linked by a continuous piano accompaniment it is framed by a heart-stoppingly beautiful melody to the words “all space and time vanish at the sound of these songs” and it was performed by William Griffiths, tenor, with full sensitivity and musicianship and with exquisite accompaniment by Susie Allan, on the piano, to a rapt capacity audience.

The other works chosen were by Cesti, Faure, Gurney, Quilter and Vaughan-Williams finishing with a traditional Welsh language song in an unpublished arrangement by Ian Humphris.

The performance in this second part of the concert was overshadowed by the Beethoven with Griffiths’ dynamic control losing sharpness. But despite this the whole concert was a supremely enjoyable experience and we were treated to a bonus encore with Beethoven’s great successor Schubert’s “An die Musik”.

The concert was followed by sherry and canapes, hospitality typical of this venue.

by Colin Rourke