Richard Lloyd Morgan’s Schwanengesang
SASHA MILLWOOD is dubious as Richard Lloyd Morgan and Bill Lloyd struggled to overcome the cavernous acoustic of King’s College Chapel.
Sunday 30th January, King’s College Chapel. Richard Lloyd Morgan and Bill Lloyd: Schubert and Vaughan Williams.
Schubert’s Schwanengesang was composed for private, intimate spaces. Whilst we don’t always need to perfectly replicate the conditions envisaged by the composer, it quickly became apparent during Sunday’s concert that the gargantuan space of King’s College chapel was wholly inappropriate for this music.
Schubert’s challenging piano accompaniments were not helped by the acoustics. The filigree texture of some of the faster, livelier songs was obscured and the climaxes of the more solemn songs sounded too distant to inspire the awe and terror expressed in the words.
Nonetheless, the pianist Bill Lloyd did show admirable technical mastery and control. He was also well attuned to the balance, ensuring that the grand piano was never allowed to overpower the voice. Indeed, the piano often seemed too ancillary, for while the vocal part is the focus of the music, the accompaniment is should have been treated as more integral to the performance.
That said, the other work in the programme, Vaughan Williams’ The House of Life, makes the importance of this relationship yet more prominent, and the extended passages of unaccompanied voice or solo piano allowed the duo to better demonstrate their understanding of the balance of their roles.
The singer, Richard Lloyd Morgan, has a fine voice, but the diction and general clarity of his singing was marred by the acoustic. I struggled to make out more than the first couple of words in each line – and whilst my A-level German may be very rusty, the Vaughan Williams was in English so it ought to have been much clearer. The reverberation exaggerated even the most modest vibrato to operatic levels.
That is not to say that he was insensitive to the nature of the music and the text. He clearly felt both, and acted the part proficiently so that despite the loss of intensity on account of the size of the chapel there were some truly arresting moments.
This could have been an excellent concert, but the acoustic problems were insurmountable. Why the chapel was chosen is difficult to fathom. Audience capacity was not an issue, and, as chaplain, the singer must surely have been familiar with the building. A smaller and more intimate space would have brought out the best in this undoubtedly fine duo.