Julius Drake was “impeccable” (Richard Morrison, The Times) throughout Wigmore Hall’s Monday, 9 March lunchtime concert. Drake performed a programme featuring Tavener’s Akhmatova Songs, Kodály’s Sonatina for cello and piano, Deborah Pritchard’s Storm Song, Debussy’s Chansons de Bilitis, a new work by Master of the Queen’s Music Judith Weir (On a palmy beach), and Schubert’s Auf dem Strom D943. He was joined by the exceptional musicians: soprano Ruby Hughes and cellist Natalie Clein.

“All three drew us irresistibly into a dark, romantic world,” writes Morrison in his 4 star review.

He continues:

“With John Tavener, less was not necessarily more. His incredible seven-hour Veil of the Temple, which required the audience to sit through the night, was one of the great musical experiences of the early 21st century. It’s strange, however, that the master of mystic minimalism could conjure up exactly the same feelings of otherworldly, time-suspended ritual with the barest minimum of means — namely a cello and soprano, in his exquisite Akhmatova Songs.

“Three of them were performed by the soprano Ruby Hughes and the cellist Natalie Clein in this BBC Radio 3 lunchtime recital. Drawing on Orthodox church modes, and as aphoristic and elegiac as Anna Akhmatova’s supercharged poems, they were exquisite miniatures.

“Deborah Pritchard’s 2017 work Storm Song, setting a short poem by Jeanette Winterson, evokes much the same intensity of experience out of similarly limited means, although here the cellist and singer were complemented by the impeccable Julius Drake on piano. A monologue with an almost operatic dimension, like Schoenberg’s Erwartung, but at a quarter of the length, Storm Song worked best near the end: an ethereal cascade of falling lines, trills and tremolandos. …

“No texts were needed, however, to enjoy an impassioned performance of Kodaly’s early and very Debussy-like Sonatina by Clein and Drake. …All three performers drew us irresistibly into the dark, romantic world of Schubert’s Auf dem Strom, another work in which the storms of nature are matched to the turmoil of the human heart.”


Listen to the concert on BBC Sounds.