Wednesday, 24 July 2013

From the diary of Virginia Woolf, Wigmore Hall

Part of a 'Perspectives' series curated by the pianist Julius Drake, this recital was an augmented single span taking all its words from the diary of Virginia Woolf. The central cycle was Dominic Argento's From the Diary of Virginia Woolf of 1974 performed by Drake with Sarah Connolly. Beside them Fiona Shaw read further extracts selected (and lightly staged) by Kate Kennedy, a Cambridge English Professor specialising in Modernist English literature and music.

The last time I heard the cycle was in a final recital ten years ago. High calibre performers then failed to lift it from the page or stage; despite the ascetic circumstances of the performances I felt that the blame should be partly ascribed to the piece. Here - ironically 'despite' the world class of the performers - I felt that the effectiveness of the eight song cycle was down to the obscure riches of the piece, exposed not so much through interpretation as clarity of presentation. Fiona Shaw's demonstrative reading of pertinent diary extracts interpolated between the songs was part of this exercise in illuminating the texts, particularly effective in highlighting the humour near the surface of the diaries. Of course, everything felt quite at home in the decorous art deco interior of Wigmore Hall.

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