Joseph Middleton and Jennifer Johnston

Tuesday 10 October 2012

Jennifer Johnston – Mezzo Soprano

Joseph Middleton – Piano

SchumannFrauenliebe und leben
WolfMignon Lieder: Heiß mich nicht reden
WolfMignon Lieder: Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt
WolfMignon Lieder: So lasst mich scheinen
WolfMignon Lieder: Kennst du das Land?
Vaughan WilliamsThe Watermill
Vaughan WilliamsSilent Noon
BrittenAt the mid hour of night
BrittenCa’ the yowes
BrittenO Waly, Waly
MahlerRückert-Lieder: Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder!
MahlerRückert-Lieder: Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft
MahlerRückert-Lieder:Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen
MahlerRückert-Lieder: Um Mitternacht
MahlerRückert-Lieder: Liebst du um Schönheit

A BBC New Generation artist named by the BBC Music Magazine as a ‘Rising Star’ and the Financial Times as the ‘Face to watch in Opera’, Jennifer Johnston has appeared with Opera North, Scottish Opera and at major festivals here and in Europe. She is a member of the Prince Consort and is also in demand as a soloist with many of Britain’s leading orchestras. She gave her solo recital debut at the Wigmore Hall with Joseph Middleton in August, 2011.

Joseph Middleton enjoys a busy and varied career as a chamber musician and accompanist, and has recently been described in The Times as ‘the cream of the new generation’. In demand at home and abroad, he has given recitals with internationally established singers of the opera world and regularly collaborates with rising stars, including Jennifer Johnston.


Skipton Music opened their 2012-13 programme with a lieder recital given by Jennifer Johnston, Mezzo-soprano and Joseph Middleton, piano.

A brave choice indeed for the first concert of the season, as Lieder, like 'bel canto' has been for so long defined as, "The lost Art of Song".

The first setback is that the bulk of Lieder repertoire is centred round the Romantic German School; and to sing the songs in German rather than rely on some naff translation is obligatory.

This puts a huge burden on the audience, insomuch as they are given a thumbnail outline of each song in English and then have the task of reconciling what they hear with what they have been told.

Jennifer Johnston spoke well about her songs to amplify the programme notes, despite the intrusion of many 'ers and umms'. She also confessed that she was tired after travelling from Amsterdam to Skipton.

But for the most part she sang beautifully, her tiredness only surfacing now and again in the awkward vocal areas where contralto, mezzo and soprano have to be technically fused.

Her quiet passages were delicious and there were moments of exquisite beauty in the programme.

Joseph Middleton is a fine accompanist. There is neither push nor lag in his playing. His use of the damping pedal was thoughtful and discrete. Apart from one lapse of balance he brought out the best of the Yamaha.

But I have to confess that the stars of the show were the Skipton audience. You could have heard a pin drop throughout every item and every pause between songs. They neither clapped, rustled nor coughed; but conserved their powder for applause.

I wonder how many other venues could boast such sympathy and sophistication.

Adrienne Fox