‘I have a song to sing…’

Some celebrated names and a number approaching such status are due in Sheffield over three days, two heavily packed, in November.

The occasion is a Song-Makers Festival, 11th –13th of November, as part of the University of Sheffield Concert Season, and is as compelling as the main body of the series of concerts in it.

Renowned baritone Roderick Williams begins the weekend with pianist Christopher Glynn on the 11th with a sold out performance of Schubert’s Winterreise at the Crucible Studio, one of two events in association with Music in the Round.

Moving on to the next day, the second one at Firth Hall is an all-embracing exploration of German song, including a masterclass with university students (10am –3.30pm).

Highly rated young mezzo-soprano Kitty Whately and Simon Lepper, one of the UK’s best younger generation piano accompanists, are at Upper Chapel (2 –3pm) with Nights Not Spent Alone, a cycle of three Edna St Vincent Millay poems written for her by Jonathan Dove.

Making up the programme are pieces of similar nature by Fauré: Avant que tu ne t’en ailles (La Bonne Chanson); Debussy: Trois Chansons de Bilitis; Vaughan Williams: Tired (Four Last Songs); Barber: Nocturne (Four Songs Op 13); and Sondheim: Could I Leave You? from Follies.

Shostakovich is at the same venue (4 –5pm) when Russian song specialist, soprano Joan Rodgers, performs his Seven Romances on Poems by Alexander Blok with the Phoenix Piano Trio, which also offers the composer’s Second Piano Trio.

The trio’s pianist is Sholto Kynoch, founder and director of the Oxford Lieder Festival.

Moving to Firth Hall (7 –8pm) with Simon Lepper we have Messiaen, his Andean-flavoured song cycle Harawi for dramatic soprano and piano from Gweneth-Ann Rand.

“Why don’t we hear more of this accomplished soprano?” asked the Daily Telegraph’s Rupert Christiansen last year!

Another British-born soprano we seem certain to hear more of, Raphaela Papadakis, moves in with Sholto Kynoch (9 –10pm) and four of Schoenberg’s eight humorous Brettl-Lieder (Cabaret Songs) from 1901 – guaranteed to drown misconceptions of him!

There are also similarly themed outings for pieces by Poulenc (three), Satie (two), including the fabulous La Diva de l’Empire, Joseph Marx (four) and Lehár – the saucy Meine Lippen from Giuditta!

And so to the 13th and still at Firth Hall where a tenor making a name for himself, Daniel Norman, performs Vaughan Williams’ Housman cycle On Wenlock Edge with Sholto Kynoch and the Gildas Quartet (12.30 –1.30pm).

There has to be something else, to be confirmed – Britten’s Winter Words, in Norman’s repertoire, would be an ideal foil! (This piece will be updated when we know!).

Graham Johnson, no less, the doyen of British piano accompanists, puts an appearance in with gifted younger generation baritone Benedict Nelson (2.30-3.30pm) for a programme entitled ‘Odysseus’ prompted by Homer’s Odyssey.

Performed in Harrogate in July, there is nothing particularly Greek about it with Ulysses’ epic journey reflected in songs by Schubert (eight), Zemlinksy, Clara and Robert Schumann, and Fauré (two).

Raphaela Papadakis returns with the Gildas Quartet (4.30 –5.30pm) for the final recital and Schumann’s six songs Op 107, the posthumous five Ophelia Songs by Brahms and Mendelssohn arranged for soprano and string quartet by Aribert Reimann.

The Mendelssohn is Oder soll es tod bedeuten, eight Heine settings, including On Wings of Song, knitted together with short Reimann-composed instrumental bridge material.

They might need his similar exercise on Schubert’s three Mignon songs to make up the time!

How Bach’s St John Passion (7.30pm), across the road from Firth Hall in the Octagon Centre, with massed Sheffield choirs and English Touring Opera involvement comes mark the end of the festival is obscure.

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