Review: Ryedale Festival, Sarah Connolly/Christopher Glynn, Duncombe Park, Helmsley, July 18

IN what was arguably the most prestigious event of the entire festival, Dame Sarah Connolly’s rich mezzo-soprano illuminated Duncombe Park in an evening of Brahms and Schumann lieder balanced by songs of Bridge, Gurney and Britten. The festival’s own Christopher Glynn was her versatile pianist.

Connolly’s commitment captures the essence of a song within a few bars of its opening. In Brahms’s Feldeinsamkeit (Alone In Te fields), we immediately sensed her lying in the long grass gazing up at the blue sky. It is a miniature and she treated it intimately. Von Ewiger Liebe (Of Eternal Love) is at the other end of the spectrum, a big, bold declaration of love. Here her passion was unrestrained, the voice noble, majestic.

Schumann’s cycle, A Woman’s Life And Love, brought us all the moods of love: the simplicity of new love, the incredulousness of being her lover’s chosen one, the intimacy of her conversation with her wedding ring, all swept towards "aller meine Lust" (all my joy). Then there was a change, a dream of motherhood, before the infinite sadness of the lover’s death. I swear she wiped away a tear here. So did we.

Two Bridge settings of Tagore were beautifully elongated, as she penetrated links between nature and humanity. Gurney’s Sleep rocked delicately, preparing nicely for the maternal variety of Britten’s cycle A Charm Of Lullabies, which closed in a marvellous sotto voce. Glynn remained a faithful companion. Martin Dreyer