Review: Britten 1964 recital at Gresham’s in Holt

Mark Jones, Musical Director of Gresham's Senior School with Thomas Hobbs, tenor, recreate Benjamin

Mark Jones, Musical Director of Gresham's Senior School with Thomas Hobbs, tenor, recreate Benjamin Britten's 1964 recital at the Holt school. Picture: submitted - Credit: Archant

Thomas Hobbs and Mark Jones, Gresham's School, Holt

In 1964 Benjamin Britten accompanied Peter Pears in a song recital at Gresham's, his old school. He was a man who generally preferred not to keep up links with his past, and the then headmaster had done well to persuade him to come back.

Last Friday, with Mark Jones, Gresham's director of music, at the piano, the tenor Thomas Hobbs repeated the programme that the composer had performed with his friend on that famous occasion.

Airs by Purcell, Arne and Handel came first. The familiar words and tunes seemed refreshed in deft versions by Britten. His prowess as a pianist was on display in Schubert's On the Bridge, just as The Questioner was well chosen to reveal Pears' distinctive style.

Though he did not try to mimic it, Hobbs knew how to echo it while still retaining his own vocal characteristics. In Winter Words, a sequence of eight poems by Thomas Hardy, he caught the moving drama of brief episodes that showed the power of music to transform life's sorrows.

The tensions created by the impassioned outburst of the last song dissolved by a final group of four arrangements of traditional English songs. They were still perfectly recognisable, but somehow always intriguingly different, with interest repeatedly switching from voice to piano and back again in the most entertaining way.

Christopher Smith

Most Read

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter