north east scotland's festival of new music

press reviews

Irene Drummond, Soprano
& Alasdair Beatson, Piano

Written by Alan Cooper

reproduced with permission


Music in the University | sound | Irene Drummond, Soprano & Alasdair Beatson, Piano

I did have a ticket for the RSNO at the Music Hall on Thursday night but I decided to go instead to hear Irene Drummond and Alasdair Beatson give their recital of songs predominantly on the theme of love. I gave away my other ticket so I do hope the Mozart programme at the Music Hall was good but I can't help feeling that I got the best of the deal because Drummond and Beatson's recital was absolutely out of this world.

Four settings of poems by Shakespeare opened the programme, each in its way a golden classic. Haydn's She never told her love was sung with superb sensitivity backed by a beautifully poised and delicate accompaniment from Alasdair Beatson. In Schubert's Who is Sylvia? Irene Drummond managed to infuse a certain warm smiling tone into her voice against a gleeful left hand piano melody played with infectious lightness. A glowing performance of the Vaughan Williams setting of Orpheus with his lute was followed by Dominick Argento's graphic version of When icicles hang by the wall complete with "greasy Joan" at her most believably earthy.

In keeping with the support afforded to contemporary composers by sound we heard two songs by John Hearne. Here an athletically expressive vocal part was supported by virtuoso piano writing. The second song On leaving the summer and sea had Alasdair Beatson capturing all the unchained energy of stormy northern seas.

For me, Paul Mealor's Between Eternity and Time eclipsed even Aaron Copland's four settings of poems by Emily Dickinson with the possible exception of the final song, Heart, we will forget him! I felt that Mealor's soaring vocal lines seasoned with the merest hint of sweetness and supported by the misty atmosphere of sinuous piano scoring matched the words beautifully. Obviously Irene Drummond thought so too for as her encore at the end of the concert, she chose to repeat the first song Come Slowly, Eden!

La Maja Dolorosa by Granados sung in Spanish had a real sense of Iberian warmth and smouldering passion and it did not surprise me to discover after listening to Alasdair Beatson's colourful accompaniment that this music has also been arranged for voice and guitar. The vocal range of the first song was broad indeed but Irene Drummond managed to reach the depths with as much ease as she soared to the heights.

The concert ended with three less well-known gems, a delightfully quirky poke at the tradition of love songs by Charles Ives, a charming conceit by Robert Frost set to music by Elliot Carter soon to celebrate his hundredth birthday and a setting by Richard Hageman of a poem by Rabindranath Tagore who was himself a composer though in the Indian classical tradition. Hageman worked for a time as a Hollywood composer and there was indeed just a hint of that in his song. In my student days, that would have been enough to have condemned his music to the lowest reaches of critical hell. Thank goodness we have grown up a bit since then. I am not ashamed to go on record as having really liked that song.

Original article reproduced here with kind permission.

events mentioned
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6Thu7.45 pmAberdeenIrene Drummond, soprano & Alasdair Beatson, piano