Iffley Music Society

JEREMY WHITE (bass-baritone) & MARK PACKWOOD (piano)

Iffley Church Hall, Sunday May 11th 2014.

Wjite and packwood

Linguistic hoops, a huge variety of styles and a magnificent rounded bass-baritone sound: these were the characteristics of a fine recital which the Iffley Music Society presented on a recent Sunday afternoon.

It is such a privilege to have music of this calibre brought to Iffley. Not only is access so easy (parking outside, as compared with the hassle of finding a space in central Oxford), but the afternoon slot affords the opportunity for those who are not so keen to go out in the evenings. Furthermore, such a concert in the Holywell Music Room would probably cost £20, as compared with £14 here (£12 for members).

Italian and Spanish were missing from the full flush of languages, but Jeremy White sang idiomatically in German, Czech, Russian, French and - amazingly  - Hungarian (as well as English), all without a score. Actually, in my view, French is the most difficult of these to sing idiomatically and Hungarian one of the easiest.  Indeed, Bartok’s Five Hungarian Folksongs were one of several highlights of a varied programme and they came over with true Hungarian ‘zing’.

Mr White has a magnificent voice, more bass than baritone, and one is slightly surprised that the main focus of his recent work has been to sing character roles at the Royal Opera House, which he has done for the last decade and where, according to the programme, he has been the “only House Principal” for the last ten years. His voice and presence would grace any major opera house in a great role, such as Hans Sachs in Wagner’s Mastersingers, a snatch of which impressively opened the programme (even without orchestral accompaniment this was beautiful – which leads me on to the fine pianism of Mark Packwood). He is on the music staff at Covent Garden and his playing on Iffley’s upright Yamaha was impressive throughout. It was delightful that he gave us two solo items also, the first by Brahms, the second by an little-known Welsh composer, Mervyn Roberts, who died in 1990, but who dedicated a piece to our pianist and wrote this delightful prelude.

The printed programme was one of the most informative I’ve ever read for a song recital – not easy, in view of the profusion of languages and styles. Reading the full words, with parallel translations, added much to the enjoyment of the occasion, though I suspect that some of us had difficulty in following the Russian texts, somewhat idiosyncratically reproduced in the Cyrillic alphabet.

Michael Bourdeaux