review: Cambridge Music Festival 09 Still Falls the Rain

Still Falls the Rain was an ideal title for an evening of high quality music in Robinson College Chapel on Thursday 12th November as part of the Cambridge Music Festival. The work of the same name by Benjamin Britten was undoubtedly one of the highlights. Tenor John McMunn drew every nuance of suffering, anguish and desolation from Britten’s score while Alec Frank Gemmill (horn) and pianist Matthew Schellhorn synthesized perfectly. 

This eclectic programme included a fine performance of Schubert’s Auf dem Strom and Britten’s Now sleeps the crimson petal. The evening also celebrated the anniversaries of two composers: Haydn and Mendelssohn. Matthew Schellhorn’s phenomenal technique was evident in his performance of Haydn’s Andante con varizaioni in F minor and  John and Matthew performed Mendelssohn’s songs Neue Liebe 19a no 4, Auf Flugen des Gesanges Op. 34 no 2, and Pagenlied Op posth. with much grace and beauty and  Reisenlied Op 34 no 6 with rare vitality and momentum. 

A set of six miniature compositions commissioned by Matthew Schellhorn was a major event.  Jeremy Hurlow’s graphic portrayal in Butterfly was  perceptively unified (while his earlier composition, Unbidden Visions, was noticeably potent and succinct). Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s Stolen Rhythm burst with captivating energy and Michael Zev Gordon’s Innocente indulged in delicious Debussy-like reverie. The other composers, Tim Watts, Colin Riley, Cecilia McDowall provided very interesting and varied works even though each miniature was based on the same recurring theme: the letters to H-A-Y-D-N. 

This was indeed a fitting contribution to the Festival.

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