The song festival – with Arts Council funding reinstated – opened with a meaty all-Schubert programme full of delights and camaraderie

double anniversary would be cause enough for celebration – 2024 marks Leeds Lieder’s 20th year, and a decade of pianist Joseph Middleton’s leadership – but the festival has other reasons to be cheerful: the reinstatement of its Arts Council England funding, abruptly withdrawn last year, and the consequent outpouring of generosity from its friends onstage and off, which Middleton’s introductory note credits squarely with keeping the organisation alive to fight another year.

This gala opening recital, a meaty all-Schubert programme of mainstays and rarities, continued in that vein of camaraderie. Bringing Middleton together with pianist Roger Vignoles and baritone Roderick Williams, both Leeds Lieder royalty, as well as soprano Nikola Hillebrand, who made her UK recital debut there in 2022, and the festival’s current cohort of Young Artists, this was truly collaborative music-making: right down to Middleton dutifully turning pages for his fellow accompanist.

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