16 May 2013

with thanks to Josephine Crabb, photo by Malcolm Stork



The Holy Trinity Church in Cookham, first constructed by the Normans in 1140 AD, provided the backdrop for the accomplished performance by soprano Elisabeth Croft at the 2013 Cookham Festival. Elisabeth, a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music was accompanied in the first half on the piano by Josef Janik (also a graduate of the Royal Academy who studied initially at  Zilina Conservatiore).


Each note and phrase was beautifully produced by the artist as the audience was carried along on a series of moods throughout the evening commencing with Four Songs (Op. 2) by Arnold Schoenberg written in 1899 with notable stirring cadences in ‘Erhebung’ (Elevation), and a sparkling rendition of ‘Waldsonne’ (Sun in the Forest).


An audience is further engaged when an artist reveals something about themselves and Elisabeth mentioned that Mahler was always a favourite composer of hers and dedicated Mahler’s Four Ruckert Lieder to one of her singing teachers who had just passed away. ‘Um Mitternacht’ (At midnight) was sung with solitary beauty and faith.


On this Island, a set of five songs by Benjamin Britten based on a book of poems by W.H. Auden which Britten set to music in 1937 continued the journey to more modern times with the never expected phraseology. The lapping sound of the ‘Seascape’ contrasts with the final flourish ‘As it is plenty’ and Cookham Festival’s Director of Classical Music, Malcolm Stork remarked this to be ‘approachable Britten’. 


Elisabeth joked after the interval that she had not changed her costume, “just her accompanist” and introduced Michael L. Roberts who played his own composition ‘The Avocatus Suite: Part I’, which he wrote especially for Elisabeth, and which received its premiere in London in 2010.


Here we listened to the artist’s firm diction while exploring ‘The Last Corridor’; enquiring after the ‘Deserted Star’; feeling restless like the ‘Butterfly’ and the lilting ‘Avocatus’ bringing the haunting experience of the late night torch song.   


Elisabeth’s encore was a Welsh Lullaby, a family favourite, and just the music to send us on our way home to reflect on this exhilarating evening.                    



Accompanist Michael L. Robertsand Elisabeth Croft (née Toye), Soprano

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