Ian Bostridge has always been a persuasive advocate of English song, and he created a world of vivid nostalgia with On Wenlock Edge, Vaughan Williams's setting of AE Housman's poetry. Singers don't often have the chance to expose their talents as ensemble musicians as well as soloists. But Bostridge's two song cycles, the Vaughan Williams piece and Fauré's La Bonne Chanson, were accompanied by pianist Julius Drake and the Belcea Quartet.
The poems are full of images of loss and longing, like the ghostly narrator of Is My Team Ploughing? Vaughan Williams's music matches the poems' expressive richness. He evokes the bells of Bredon Hill with chiming piano chords which, as the song progresses, depict the narrator's lovesick hopes and a joyful wedding, before finally becoming passing bells for the end of love.
In Fauré's La Bonne Chanson, however, love is celebrated with unbounded optimism. The work sets nine Verlaine poems, and was written when Fauré had fallen for one of his students. The music captures burgeoning hope and desire, and the players relished the febrile figuration of the accompaniment. But it was a world Bostridge inhabited less comfortably, even if he caught the sense of release and joy in L'Hiver A Cessé.
The selection of Schubert songs, with Drake as sole accompanist, disappointed; Bostridge's control of line and tone was unconvincing, and the piano sounded under-characterised.