Susan Bickley

Iain Burnside

St Christopher

Event 13
Sunday October 17th, 3.00pm 
Little Missenden Church

Susan Bickley sings Wagner, Wolf, Gurney - and much more
Franz Joseph Haydn
The Mermaid’s Song • She never told her love • Fidelity • The Spirit’s Song
Hugo Wolf
Der Gärtner • Gesang Weylas • Um Mitternacht • Wo find ich Trost?
Richard Wagner
5 Lieder von Matthilde Wesendonck: Der Engel (The Angel) • Stehe still! (Stand still!) • Im Treibhaus (In the hothouse) • Schmerzen (Sorrows) • Träume (Dreams)
Ivor Gurney
I will go with my father a-ploughing • Reconciliation • On the Downs • The Scribe • By a Bierside
John White
Houses and Gardens in the Heart of England
Jeremy Dale Roberts
Spoken to a Bronze Head
Brian Elias
Meet me in the Green Glen
Richard Baker
English Lullaby
William Bolcom
Fur • Oh close the curtain • Amor

This is an archived event from the 2010 Programme.

Iain Burnside piano, Susan Bickley mezzo-soprano

Most of what Wagner wrote is too big for our small Festival, but his intensely moving settings of five Mathilde Wesendonck poems are an exception. Written while he was working on Tristan and Isolde they foreshadow that opera's sensuous harmonies and exquisite melodic lines.

"Im Treibhaus was full of confiding intimacy, and Susan Bickley responded with intense precision to the suggestions of the text. Bickley brought an attractive dignity to Träume, a sense of inner stability in her characterisation, a facing-up to the approach of death which carried great conviction" (MusicWeb international)

Hugo Wolf's exquisite songs achieve an unsurpassed marriage of music and text - influenced by Wagner but on a miniature scale. These are four beautiful settings of Eduard Mörike's lyrical poetry.

Poet and composer Ivor Gurney was one of England's finest song-writers, but is only gradually winning due recognition. In 2008 the Festival programmed his Ludlow and Teme cycle. His best songs have an intensely lyrical (and often melancholy) beauty - as in By a Bierside.

The performers have just received from the Gurney estate an unpublished and unperformed song called Reconciliation, which they would like to substitute for Epitaph in Old Mode.  This will be a change from the published programme - but a world premiere seems to justify it.

The songs by White, Dale Roberts, Elias and Baker were written for the delightful 2009 NMC Songbook. Nearly 100 composers (from the most illustrious to emerging young talents), each wrote a song on the theme of ‘Britain'. These were issued as a 4CD set, winning the Gramophone's Best Contemporary Recording award. Iain advised on the project, and Susan was one of the singers.

Their programme begins with four of Haydn's charming Canzonettas, and ends with a group of William Bolcom's joyously irresistible Cabaret Songs.

Susan and Iain are an ideal pairing for this music. Iain is passionately committed to song, and British song in particular. He is one of our leading accompanists, a good communicator, and a renowned broadcaster, programme planner and musical commentator.

Susan's performances in opera houses, concert halls and recital rooms have drawn glowing reviews.

"The molten mezzo of Susan Bickley was not simply inspirational, but exquisite" (Kenneth Walton, Scotsman)

"Her performance - heartstoppingly direct, seamlessly expressive, and perfectly even in tone - is a marvel in every respect" (Andrew Clements, The Guardian)

She's an acclaimed Wagnerian - Michael Tanner in the Spectator praised her "truly great singing" in "the most moving and eloquent account of Waltraute's narration that I have ever witnessed", and she was an "enthralling" Brangäne.

The pair's Naxos CD of Gurney songs has been much praised:

"Wherever you turn, these songs offer illumination and refreshment, splendidly captured not only by Susan Bickley but by her ever-sensitive accompanist, Iain Burnside" (Edward Greenfield, Gramophone)

"Bickley's attractive mezzo is the perfect interpreter for Gurney, gutsy one moment, restrained the next, whilst textual clarity is always given paramount importance" (Antony Lias, Opera Britannia)

"Susan Bickley shares with Gurney a direct and instinctive response to the inflections, metres and emotional colours of the English language" (Hilary Finch, BBC Music Magazine, 4 star CD review)

"What's wonderful about this performance is the way singer and pianist respond so sensitively to Gurney's word-painting and musical inflections. Susan Bickley colours every long-breathed phrase imaginatively and Iain Burnside's accompaniment is subtle and thoughtful" (Emma Baker, Classic FM)

For more information on Susan Bickley, click here or here (Hyperion Records web-site). For more information on Iain Burnside, click here or here.