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Seasons in the Mind of Men opera review: An intriguing selection of composers

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The Academy is based in the North-East of England and attracts promising young singers and pianists from around the world.

Proof of its success in providing the ground for musicians to further their careers was clear at last week’s Wigmore Hall concert, Seasons In The Mind Of Men, which brought together five rising young singers who have already made their operatic mark, and two pianists, in a programme of songs centred on the seasons of the year.

The songs were divided into sections as spring, summer, autumn and winter, with those by German composers in the first half of the evening and by anglophone composers in the second half.

The Teutonic half kicked off with a breezy setting by Schubert of Schiller’s Ode To Spring, performed with bright tone by Yorkshire-born soprano Rowan Pierce.

Summer sounded a cheerful note as Australian soprano Lauren Fagan bloomed happily in Schumann’s Love’s Garden, and mezzo Bianca Andrew evoked the soothing haze of Brahms’s Summer Evening.

Songs tended to the downbeat when it came to autumn and winter.

Swiss bass-baritone Milan Siljanov, currently a member of the Bavarian State Opera, brought an air of defiance to the dreams of death in Hugo Wolf’s Autumn, and tenor Nick Pritchard mused on the vanished past in Schubert’s The Winter Evening.

The second half was more intriguing in the selection of composers, mainly from those practising in the early to mid-20th century.

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Summer took in Ralph Vaughan Williams’s setting of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Silent Noon, George Butterworth on Housman’s Bredon Hill, Peter Warlock’s rollicking The Cricketers of Hambledon, and Amy Beach’s setting of Robert Browning’s ode, Ah! Love, But A Day.

Apart from the works of Benjamin Britten and John Ireland, the English language section included lesser known composers such as Roger Quilter, Dominick Argento, Michael Head,the poet and composer Ivor Gurney, and Lionel Monckton.

Monckton’s Charming Weather, a duet wittily performed by Lauren Fagan and Milan Siljanov, has a young man’s attempted marriage proposal to his girlfriend constantly interrupted by passers-by.

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Seasons In The Mind Of Men’s songs is centred on the seasons of the year

Gurney’s sprightly setting of Thomas Nashe’s Spring was particularly moving as Gurney, one of the Great War Poets, spent the last 15 years of his life in a psychiatric hospital, from where he continued to write and compose.

The evening ended with two famous examples of springtime romance in Jerome Kern’s All the Things You Are, sung by Bianca Andrew, and Ivor Novello’s We’ll Gather Lilacs, sung by tenor Nick Pritchard – a wonderful finale that left the audience awash with nostalgia.

Samling Artists James Baillieu and Ian Tindale provided fine piano accompaniment.

Seasons in the Mind of Men plays at Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall, London W1 (One night only. 020 7935 2141/

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