Review: The Sunday Times

Leeds Lieder is lucky to have this soprano at the peak of her powers

The Sunday Times, May 5 2019
by Hugh Canning

Just before the summer festival onslaught begins in earnest in two weeks with Glyndebourne’s La Damnation de Faust, two smaller, more niche jamborees, Leeds Lieder and the London Handel Festival, enjoy their moment in the sun.

The Leeds Lieder festival rejoices in its compact format: 13 recitals and masterclasses with top international singers are crammed into four days, with additional talks, study and community events. The programme is curated by the award-winning pianist Joseph Middleton, who played in three of the recitals and presides as a benign presence over the ancillary events. Eleven singer-pianist partnerships take part in the masterclasses, and one – the tenor Kieran Carrel and his accompanist, Richard Gowers- was presented with an award by the guest of honour, the Austrian mezzo Angelika Kirchschlager. I heard three recitals.

Nicky Spence’s wide-ranging programme with Malcolm Martineau juxtaposed settings of words by the poet Paul Verlaine by Debussy and the 30-year-old British composer, Mark Simpson, who Three Verlaine Settings were commissioned y the festival and sung with real empathy by the versatile Spence, perhaps grateful for their old-fashioned lyricism and the neo-Romantic bravura of the piano part.

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Review: Ilkley Gazette 

Leeds Lieder Festival, James Newby and Joseph Middleton, The Venue, Leeds College of Music, Thursday 25th April 2019
By Geoffrey Mogridge
Leeds Lieder has packed a veritable banquet of recitals, masterclasses, “bring and sing” rehearsals for all, pre-concert talks and composer forums into its annual four-day Festival. International artists gracing this year’s event have included singers Angelika Kirchschlager, Amanda Roocroft, Fatma Said, Nicky Spence, Samuel Hasselhorn, Miah Persson and Dame Ann Murray with pianists Graham Johnson, Malcolm Martineau and Leeds Lieder director Joseph Middleton.

Sickness sadly forced German baritone Benjamin Appl to cancel just hours before this concert. James Newby is one of the current crop of exciting young British singers. Luckily, he was available to step in and save the day.

Newby and Middleton opened with Schubert’s three songs Gesange des Harfners or The Enigmatic Harpist (1822). Two mournful laments and a vale of tears revealed the infinite shading of Newby’s lustrous dark baritone and Middleton’s multi-layered piano accompaniment in the bright acoustic of this 360 seat auditorium.

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