Tuesday, 24 March 2015

A terrific debut disc of English poetry and song from mezzo-soprano Kitty Whately for Champs Hill Records

If undertaken sensitively the combination of poetry and music can work extremely effectively.  Such is the case with mezzo-soprano Kitty Whately’s  www.kittywhately.com debut CD from Champs Hill Records www.champshillrecords.co.uk entitled This other Eden with pianist Joseph Middleton www.josephmiddleton.com , the Navarra Quartet www.navarra.co.uk and speakers Kevin Whately www.imdb.com/name/nm0923610  and Madelaine Newton www.imdb.com/name/nm0628555


British mezzo-soprano Kitty Whately sings on concert, opera and recital stages in the UK and internationally. She is currently a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist and is an HSBC Laureate for the Aix-en-Provence Festival as well as winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Award in 2011.

She trained at Chetham’s School of Music, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and the Royal College of Music International Opera School where she was awarded the Aldama Scholarship and numerous prizes. She won the 59th Royal Over-seas League Award for Singers in 2011 and was also a finalist at the Les Azuriales International Singing Competition 2010.

Highlights this season include singing Kate in Britten's Owen Wingrave at Opéra National de Lorraine; Bach’s Magnificat with the Choir of King’s College Cambridge and the Britten Sinfonia; De Falla’s The Three-Cornered Hat with BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Haydn’s Nelson Mass with Britten Sinfonia on tour in Spain and the Netherlands. She also made her City of Birmingham Symphony debut and performed at London’s Wigmore Hall with pianist Joseph Middleton. In June 2015, she will appear in a new production of Jonathan Dove’s Flight at Opera Holland Park in North London.

Other recent highlights have included her Opera Holland Park debut as Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia; her BBC Proms debut in Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ Suite from Act II of Caroline Mathilde with BBC National Orchestra of Wales; her debut at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in the world premiere of Vasco Mendonça’s The House Taken Over; and her house debut at English National Opera in Vaughan Williams’ The Pilgrim’s Progress. She has also appeared in the prestigious Verbier Festival Academy as Cherubino in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro.

Kitty Whately has been invited to give recitals at the Edinburgh International Festival, Oxford Lieder Festival, Wigmore Hall, the Elgar Room (Royal Albert Hall), Leeds Lieder, Buxton Festival and Leighton House. She works with internationally renowned accompanists such as Roger Vignoles, Graham Johnson, Malcolm Martineau, Gary Matthewman and Joseph Middleton.

A short documentary about the making of this new CD can be found on Kitty Whately’s website www.kittywhately.com/news 

Kitty Whately’s recital focuses on different aspects of the British landscape and is grouped in sections as This Other Eden, Forests and Gardens, Meadows and Fields, Wilds of Scotland and Coasts and Seas.

This new release opens with a reading from Shakespeare’s (1564–1616) Richard II, Act 2, Scene 1 ‘This Sceptre’d Isle’ read by actor Kevin Whately making a fine opening before Kitty Whately sings John Ireland’s (1879–1962) Earth’s Call, full of a blustering feel of the outdoors. This mezzo-soprano has a very fine voice indeed, a beautiful tone, total security and rising to peaks brilliantly. She receives terrific support from pianist Joseph Middleton, sensitive to Ireland’s fine writing.  This is a perfectly controlled performance with some fine quieter moments.  

Peter Warlock’s (1894–1930) My Own Country follows with Whately and Middleton bringing a real understanding to Warlock’s fine song, beautifully paced and phrased.

Actor Madelaine Newton then gives a lovely reading of Walter de la Mare’s (1873–1956) England before violinist Magnus Johnston and cellist Brian O’Kane join Kitty Whately and Joseph Middleton for I will go with my father a-ploughing by Roger Quilter (1877–1953), a beautifully fresh performance, with a lovely rhythmic lilt, Whately showing her fine flexibility and understanding of this setting.

Kevin Whately reads John Clare’s (1793–1864) In Hilly-Wood finding such a natural quality in his delivery. No collection of English song would be complete without that fine poet and composer, Ivor Gurney (1890–1937).  Kitty Whately brings a lovely sensibility to The Sally Gardens with sensitive accompaniment from Joseph Middleton.

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958) is represented by two songs; firstly We’ll to the woods no more where Magnus Johnston’s violin opens quietly and gently before
Kitty Whately joins, bringing a poignant sense of solitude.  This is a wonderful performance of an exquisite setting.

Madelaine Newton follows with a reading from Wendell Berry’s (b.1934) The Peace of Wild Things, beautifully read with just the right nuance.

Kitty Whately builds Herbert Howells’ (1892–1983) King David so well, rising to some very fine moments with exquisite piano accompaniment, limpid and sensitive with mezzo and pianist complementing each other’s textures superbly.

After Madelaine Newton’s fine reading of Thomas Hardy’s (1840–1928) The Darkling Thrush we have a song by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852–1924), something of an underrated song composer. Here his La belle dame sans merci has a surprisingly spare opening with Whately finding just the right feel before the music turns brighter picking up rhythmically and with Middleton, finely delivering all the changing moods, tempi rhythms and dynamics.

Kitty Whately gives an exquisitely controlled performance of Vaughan Williams’ Silent Noon finding the perfect rise and fall of this lovely setting before Madelaine Newton reads from Christina Rossetti’s (1830–1894) The Lambs of Grasmere.

There is a lovely piano opening to Michael Head’s (1900–1976) A Green Cornfield before Whately enters, finely shaping the lovely phrases of Head’s setting.

Kevin Whately reads a line from A E Houseman’s Spring will not wait before Joseph Middleton plays John Ireland’s piano piece of the same name, a wonderful idea with this pianist catching Ireland’s elusive sound world so well.

Another reading by Kevin Whately follows, Edward Thomas’ (1878–1917) Aldestrop, so naturally read, very affecting in its atmosphere of a captured moment in time. Ivor Gurney’s The Fields are Full receives a beautifully shaped performance alive to Gurney’s little setting.

Both Kitty Whately and Joseph Middleton capture the drama and starkness of Joseph Horovitz’s (b.1926) Lady Macbeth: A Scena. Whately is superb against Middleton’s spare accompaniment. There is a lovely piano opening to Roger Quilter’s I wish and I wish before Whately joins with violinist Magnus Johnston and cellist Brian O’Kane in this buoyant setting that has such a fresh performance as well as a lovely rhythmic flow.

Kevin Whately brings a most affecting reading of A. E. Housman’s Into my heart an air that kills before we come to James MacMillan’s (b.1959) The Children where Kitty Whately brings her beautifully pure and accurate voice before the piano enters in this most strikingly stark setting. There are violent piano chords that disturb the atmosphere before Whately’s stark yet strangely beautiful performance continues. There are a series of even more violent piano chords that thunder out and are allowed to fade to bring the end.

Kevin Whately brings a feeling of authenticity to Houseman such is his fine reading of O stay at home my lad and plough before Kitty Whately sings the folk song Ma Bonny Lad; an object lesson in how to sing this repertoire, beautifully nuanced, unaffected with a pure voice full of character.

Madelaine Newton returns to read from Louis Untermeyer (1885–1977) The Swimmers with a real sense of atmosphere.
Benjamin Britten’s (1913–1976) piano piece Early Morning Bathe is a light skittish piece to which Joseph Middleton brings a lovely rippling quality, full of forward motion and richness of tone. The calm is palpable as Kitty Whately and Joseph Middleton bring us Michael Head’s The Estuary, slowly rising in power and strength with Whately in superb voice in this fine setting.

Kevin Whately gives a most natural and unaffected reading from John Masefield’s (1878–1967) well known poem Sea Fever before the final song, Samuel Barber’s (1910–1981) Dover Beach where Kitty Whately is joined by the Navarra Quartet. The
Quartet open before Whately enters full of intensity as the quartet blend beautifully.  It is not often one hears such exquisite blends of textures of strings and voice.  The Quartet is on lovely form here, as is Kitty Whately with beautiful textures and harmonies. This is an absolutely superb performance to treasure.  

This is a terrific debut disc from Kitty Whately, a wonderfully satisfying recital, beautifully sung and with poetry readings that are very fine.

The recording is absolutely first rate and there are interesting booklet notes as well as full English texts. 

Kitty Whately is a rising star in superb voice.