Last week's recital proved the power of one person: Rachel Fenlon's riveting one-person performance of Schubert, Britten and Alma Mahler was utterly brilliant. The rain and thunder which accompanied only seemed to heighten the drama.
I had questioned whether a performance by a single singer-pianist would have the emotional power and communication of the much more common combination of separate singer and pianist. I shouldn't have. Rachel's passionate singing and breath-taking playing held the attention from start to end.
Beforehand, I and other audience members were debating why it is that the singer-cum-player combination isn't more common. Some people were saying that they had known - years ago - such performers. Is it that the modern musical world, in which soloists are trained so specifially in their own single, focussed disciplines - could not possibly have room for such double-headed skills? Or was it that precedents like Les Dawson give the combination a bad reputation?
But Rachel proved us wrong. And it's not as if she was holding back in either department. Many accompanist-only pianists would shy away from Gretchen am Spinnrade; many singers would think twice about tackling the Alma Mahler songs. Rachel doesn't. And then she goes on to perform (and broadcast) incredibly complex modern works by Messaien and George Crumb. Not to mention the Dowland (which we didn't hear on Wednesday, sadly) which would have involved plucking the strings.
After the concert, we all agreed. There's no doubt that in the right hands and the right larynx, the singer-pianist (of art song and lieder) is a real THING.
This week's recital will show the power of two - not just one singer, but TWO - and an accompanist. Peter Wagstaff and Tom Oldham (with Claire Alsop) will perform music by Vaughan Williams, Henry Purcell, Schumann and Finzi. Some wonderful English music (and Austrian with a Spanish flavour).