Wednesday 8 November 2023 7:30pm

A programme of romantic lieder and English song mostly from the early-twentieth century, exploring in particular those women composers whose works have largely been unjustly neglected in favour of their male contemporaries.

Having completed her training, Kitty Whately won the Kathleen Ferrier Award and the Royal Overseas League Award in the same year. She was a member of the BBC New Generation Artists scheme from 2013-15 and has a busy career in both opera and recital work. Her collaboration with Joseph Middleton, director of Leeds Lieder and a highly acclaimed accompanist, led recently to a CD exploring the songs by two German woman composers – Johanna Müller-Hermann and Margarete Schweikert contrasted with those of their male contemporaries,Mahler and Strauss.

A selection of these are included in the first part of tonight’s recital, followed in the second by songs exploring the links between English composers of a similar period. We hear first from John Ireland and Rebecca Clarke, both pupils of Stanford, and then from three of the composers who studied with Vaughan Williams at the Royal College of Music – Madeleine Dring, Grace Williams and Elizabeth Maconchy.

REVIEW BY Chris Skidmore

An outstanding and diverse evening of song

An interesting selection of songs, both German and English, had been chosen by Kitty Whately (mezzosoprano) for her debut recital at Ilkley Concert Club. She was joined by the director of Leeds Lieder, Joseph Middleton, whose skill as an accompanist is justly famed. Spanning the last half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, the programme featured women composers in the context of their more frequently performed male contemporaries. Kitty believes that we should be generous in expanding the repertoire by including the previously neglected rather than treating them as isolated curiosities.

In the first half, Kitty’s finely modulated and agile mezzo excelled in distinguishing the two lovers in Brahms’ Von ewige liebe: she and Joseph managed the rubato passages with great finesse. They gave good performances of the late Romantic songs of Johanna Müller-Hermann but, I felt, were more persuasive in the sparer accompaniments and simpler but more angular vocal lines of Margarete Schweikert. These latter were embedded in a selection of Strauss lieder of which the highlight was a rapt and affecting performance of his Allerseelen (All Souls Day).

The second half was characterized by some beautiful legato singing in Rebecca Clarke’s setting of the Salley Gardens and Elizabeth Maconchy’s Ophelia’s Song together with a suitably rapt performance of Vaughan Williams’ Silent Noon. Kitty Whately’s dramatic gifts came to the fore in settings of two darker poems – Clarke’s eerie scena The Seal Man with its heart-rending final ‘she was drowned’ and Grace Williams’ Lament of the Border Widow. The evening’s entertainment was rounded off by two of Madeleine Dring’s Shakespeare settings which with their light touch and jazz-influenced rhythms rounded off a most enjoyable concert.

It was a real privilege to be able to welcome two such fine musicians to Ilkley in a diverse programme full of outstanding performances!