The concert began with ‘Die Georgine’ by Richard Strauss (1864-1949). Written in 1883, it celebrates the beauty of the dahlia and all that nature offers; and we were immediately struck by Madeline’s beautiful and mature voice in this aria.
Two songs by Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) followed, ‘Ich liebe Dich’ and ‘Ein Traum’, both performed with empathy and understanding of the composer’s aims, while also showing Madeline’s strong vocal range and expertise.
By contrast, Madeline continued her recital with ‘Feldeinsamkeit’ (‘In Summer Fields’) by American modernist composer Charles Ives (1874-1954), with words by Hermann Allmers, lyrics which have also been set to music by Brahms. The scene is of a woodland, with bright green grass, snow-white clouds and realms of imaginary bliss, charmingly captured by Madeline’s voice through her rich and colourful tone.
The well-known aria ‘Die Junge Nonne’ by Franz Schubert (1797-1828), written in 1825, followed with its ‘stormy’ story-line and character. Challenging and rewarding for both singer and pianist, our performers impressively shared responsibility for the drama, constantly in perfect union with each other in this piece.
Moving away from German lieder, Madeline introduced us to ‘Between your Sheets’ from ‘Five Amorous Sighs’, by English composer Jonathan Dove (born 1959). Dove has written nearly thirty operas, amongst other musical works, and in this song cycle he evokes 18th century life in settings by two poets, with the text for ‘Between your Sheets’ by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762). Madeline gave the message of this most appealing song with a smooth, velvety vocal texture and heartfelt delivery.
Two more English songs, this time by by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976), followed. The first was ‘Highland Balou’ from the popular song cycle, ‘A Charm of Lullabies’ (1947), followed by Britten’s arrangement of the traditional ‘The Last Rose of Summer’. Madeline illustrated the sentiments of the songs with sensitive and immaculate singing, much to the joy of her listeners.
During all of her performance, Madeline engaged warmly with the Wednesday lunchtime audience at the Cathedral, concluding her lovely recital with an Italian vocal marathon!
From the highly successful opera ‘I Puritani’, by Sicilian composer Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835), she sang Elvira’s aria, known affectionately as ‘Qui la voce’.
Bellini was known for his long-flowing melodic lines and emotional phrases, and the intense feelings of love and loss were clearly revealed by Madeline’s interpretation of this demanding aria, ending with an exciting display of cascading notes!
After great applause from everyone, Roderick Elms presented Madeline with her Trophy as Essex Young Musician of the Year 2021, after which we had the pleasure of meeting Madeline with her family and friends at the Song School, over refreshments.
On behalf of Andrew Wright, Brentwood Cathedral’s Master of Music, and Nina How, concert organiser, we would like to thank Madeline Robinson for her superb recital at the Cathedral and to offer our sincere congratulations for her well-deserved Award.
Many thanks to Roderick Elms for his kind words and presentation of this award. We also thank Rachael Plunkett for her exquisite piano accompanying throughout the recital.
In 1825, the soprano Sophie Muller, who premiered Schubert’s ‘Die Junge Nonne’, said, “It is splendidly composed”. I am sure that those of us who attended today’s recital would say that all the music we heard was splendidly performed!
Our large number of enthusiastic music lovers look forward to welcoming Madeline and Rachael back to Brentwood Cathedral again soon!