Harriet Fraser and WIlliam Hancox

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Assembly House, Norwich

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

Harriet Fraser and William Hancox, Assembly House, Norwich.

The most enjoyable part of Harriet Fraser's lunchtime recital was a performance of the "Cabaret Songs" by Benjamin Britten. Wisely she provided the audience with the text of the cheeky poems that inspired such lively responses from the composer. Everything was kept precisely in focus. Richness of timbre was there when demanded, offsetting more austere tones for satire. A feature was the soprano's skill in controlling exuberant upward whoops.

An accomplished pianist, Britten naturally gave a fine role to the accompanist. William Hancox grasped his opportunities while providing the singer with support. He also made a delightful solo contribution with Bridge's evocative "Sea Idyll". The remainder of the programme was also devoted to the 20th century English repertory. Two of Rubbra's settings of religious lyrics came over as period pieces, too sweet for their own good. Songs by Warlock had rather more substance, though his "Pretty Ring Time" seemed unduly hurried. "If I Don't Know" was a song cycle that Roxanna Panufnik has written specially for Harriet Fraser. Comment would be unfair because the singer could not make the words clear enough.

Christopher Smith

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