Allan Clayton/Malcolm Martineau – review

Wigmore Hall, London

A rising star among British tenors, Allan Clayton sang German lieder and both French and English song in his Wigmore recital, with the invaluable support and – it frequently felt – the encouragement of Malcolm Martineau at the piano. Clayton's musicianship was nigh-on faultless, his linguistic command impressive; but at times he misjudged the level of tone needed in the hall's intimate acoustic.

In his opening Beethoven group – In questa tomba oscura, Adelaide, and the song-cycle An die ferne Geliebte – for instance, his prime asset of a bright and shiny top register took on a slightly fierce quality that could have done with some reining in; his tone was exciting, but there was a little too much of it for comfort. Lower down, the middle of the voice felt correspondingly more reticent. Yet there were also passages, both in the Beethoven and in Schumann's Op 24 Liederkreis, to texts by Heinrich Heine, when Clayton drew on a delicate mezza voce (half-voice) that was magical as well as perfectly aligned with interpretative meaning.

In the second half, an Henri Duparc selection was managed with more discretion and nuance. There was haunting tone in Extase and Phidylé alike, while Clayton's French proved as skilfully articulated as his German, though neither had the flavourful character of those Anglophone singers who inhabit these languages as if they were their own.

Clayton certainly achieved this in his final English group, which ranged from Frank Bridge to Roger Quilter, from Peter Warlock to Ivor Gurney, ending with an immaculate trio of Britten's folksong arrangements. He gave exceptional accounts of I Wonder As I Wander and Sally in Our Alley, with the voice scaled down to express minute refinements of subtle colouring.

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George Hall

The GuardianTramp

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