Maria Vujinovic and William Hancox

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Norfolk and Norwich Festival event at the Assembly House, Norwich


Rippling gently and sending foam showering into the air, Claude Debussy's evocation of a seascape in the Happy Isle was elegant poetry. Generally making his points gently, pianist William Hancox also knew how to convey the sense of a surge of power without too great an increase in volume. He was no less successful in the impressionism of Balakierev's The Lark.

These two excellent solos formed part of a recital replacing a programme of 20th century English song unavoidably cancelled, with Harriet Fraser replaced by soprano Maria Vujinovic.

Though born in South Wales, she performed in German, French and Russian. Despite the vocal variety that she managed to introduce and though she emphasised her interpretations with facial expression, her words were not clear enough. The titles of her songs gave some idea of her themes. But any closer appreciation of her conscientious artistry was practically impossible. Audiences really do need floor texts and translations, and there are ways of getting them even at shortest notice.

Though feelings of contrast and commitment came across in songs by Berg, three settings by Poulenc did not really do more than seem to tease in a rather arch way.

It was a group of four lyrics by Rachmaninov that made the most impact. That was largely because the composer concluded each of them with a substantial piano postlude, shifting attention away from singing to make points in purely musical terms.

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