Fleur Barron is a remarkable singing actress with a beautiful mezzo-soprano voice, light and not too reverberant at the top of the range but with that ample darkness and warmth at the bottom that marks out a fine mezzo. She excelled in the more dramatic songs – like the Vergebliches Ständchen (Futile serenade) of Brahms and Die Kartenlegerin (The fortune teller) of Schumann where she could act out the story to perfection.
The first half of the programme consisted of eight songs each from Brahms and Schumann, providing contrasting reflections on love and life. Excellent accompanist that he is, Julius Drake found it hard in the heavy piano parts of the Brahms not to overpower the singer from time to time. The partnership between pianist and voice was more successful in the Schumann, where both the dark drama of Der Soldat (The soldier) and the rolling accompaniment of the carriage in Mein Wagen rollet Langsam (My carriage travels slowly) were carried off excellently.
The second half consisted of songs by Charles Ives, Claude Debussy and Manuel de Falla from the early years of the twentieth century. Ives can sometimes be a difficult composer to love but the performances of Memories and At the river delighted the Ilkley audience. Next we heard a performance of Debussy’s Chansons de Bilitis which brought out the darker side of Fleur Barron’s voice admirably. Manuel de Falla’s Seven Spanish Folksongs rounded off the evening in fine style with thrilling playing from Julius Drake and agile and attractive singing from Fleur Barron.