Monday, 1 August 2011

Bethany Partridge at Budleigh Festival

Supremely expressive soprano Bethany Partridge
Regular 'Classical Journey' listeners will be familiar with the dazzling voice of soprano, and now Cambridge undergraduate, Bethany Partridge. She has performed at Broadclyst 'Coffee and Music' mornings, not only singing but playing sweet 'cello music as well. Thanks to the efforts of her father Michael, we have recordings of her lovely music to enjoy on local community radio.
More recently we have been able to hear her performances with the East Devon Choral Society at their Derufle Requiem concert last year. (Recorded at the time by Mike Gluyas, but not on general release until recently.)

At Temple Church in Budleigh on Tuesday 26 July, as part of the Budleigh Festival, Bethany gave a stunning song recital accompanied by another familiar young musician Alex West.

Rising piano star Alex West
Alex is a Cambridge graduate (maths - good lad!) now working for the Meteorological Office here in Exeter and building his experience and repertoire on the piano and organ.

Beautifully dressed in red and white Bethany walked onto the stage with perfect poise and showed her true form immediately with an aria from Handel's 'Messiah'. 'Rejoice Greatly' was an incredible start - no warm up needed. Alex also got straight into the passion of the piece, filling the hall with his deft piano accompaniment.

Anyone who has seen Bethany perform knows that she doesn't just sing beautifully, she introduces her songs very eloquently as well. Her speaking is very clear and always relaxed - despite being exposed to the gaze of the many-headed! That's a very special ability for any performer.

And what she introduced was another great Christian aria - 'Zerfliesse
Mein Herze' ('My Heart Melts Away') from Bach's St John Passion. The opening passage by Alex on the piano was intensely emotional and Bethany's performance, singing in German entirely from memory, was beautifully coloured by her genuine emotion. 'Jesus ist tot' really conveyed Bach's intentions.

Having captured our hearts with sadness, Bethany turned to love. Three love songs by Brahms, Strauss and Schumann, sung with impressive maturity. Then Bethany returned to a serious Christian topic with Mozart's Mass in C minor (unfinished, as she succinctly explained). The 'Laudamus Te' was incredibly complex, but well withing Bethany's abilities. Alex played her into each section with great feeling and finished the aria with a great piano flourish.

Speaking of Mozart, it was time for an aria from one of the master's 'opere buffe'. 'Una Donna a Quindici Anni' ('A Girl of Fifteen') from 'Cosi fan Tutte' (~'Everbody's doing it!') gave Bethany an oportunity to show the impish side of her nature - perfectly delivered in Italian, of course - but read from a score, which somehow found its way into position without anyone noticing!

Ernest Chausson's 'Colibri' ('Hummingbird') is very different from the frenzied, but sad, guitar impression by Julio Sagreras. This piece is deeply sorrowful but also very gentle with a very slow and plaintive piano opening dying away to make room for Bethany's open and drawn out words. The ending was slow and full of love.

Staying in France Bethany performed two short songs by Francis Poulenc. 'Air Champetre' ('Pastoral Air') was short and punchy, while 'Fleurs' ('Flowers') was slow again.

Finally, an established favourite, Gounod's 'Je Veux Vivre - dans ce reve qui m'enivre' ('I want to live - in this dream which intoxicates me') from 'Romeo and Juliet'. This was a hit at Broadclyst, and has been played many times on the 'Journey'. Bethany, as Juliet, scaled the heights of passion in her performance, ably accompanied by Alex on the piano - right up to the top, top note - amazing.

In the past Bethany has repeated 'Je Veux Vivre' as an encore - to the delight of the audience. Not this time. Alex and Bethany returned to amaze us with Roger Quilter's setting of Percy Shelley's 'Love's Philosophy', a delightful piece, not as passionate as 'Je Veux Vivre', but just as beautiful.

A perfect recital. And, as a bonus, Bethany's father Michael was on hand again to record all. Given a little time for editing, we should be able to share more of Bethany's wonderful music on community radio!

An exciting visitor from Lisse in the Netherlands
concert pianist and singing coach Fred Gest
Bethany will soon be going to Trinity College Cambridge to study music - and sing with the choir - but before that she will be appearing at 'Proms 2011' (The World's Greatest Classical Music Festival!) on Friday 5 August with the National Youth Choir of Great Britain in Mahler's Second Symphony ('Resurrection') with the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.

Marion's performance of 'Mahler 2' at Exeter Cathedral with the EMG Symphony Orchestra and soloists Cathering Hamilton and Alison Kettlewell was utterly awe-inspiring and leaves us in no doubt about how wonderful this concert will be. (Best seats - £55!)

We really do have the very best acts at the Budleigh Festival. And - guess what? Admission was free! We really are blessed here in Devon!

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