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John Mark Ainsley’s cleverly constructed recital highlights the personal and musical connections of four of the twentieth century’s best song writers: Britten, Poulenc, Heggie and Berkeley.
The breadth of repertoire on French Connections showcases Ainsley's range, expansive vocal colour, expressive voice and exceptional understanding of text. Accompanying Ainsley is Malcolm Martineau, to whom Heggie's Friendly Persuasions is dedicated.
The American composer pays homage to Poulenc with four imaginative songs, each of which recreates in miniature a transformative friendship in Poulenc's life. In 2008 Ainsley and Martineau gave the world premiere performance of Friendly Persuasions at Wigmore Hall, London.
The recital also includes three works by Poulenc: Fancy, Bleuet and Tel jour telle nuit, a beautifully conceived and shaped cycle; considered Poulenc's greatest vocal work it is reminiscent of the great cycles of a century earlier such as Winterreise or Dichterliebe.
Despite French heritage and fluency in the language Berkeley's friendship with Britten led him to set verse by the English poet, W.H. Auden instead. His Five Poems are some of the best of their kind; a cohesive and satisfying collection, Berkeley perfectly captures both the fanciful and reflective elements of Auden's poetry.
Auden in turn re-introduced Britten to the works of John Donne, which Britten went on to set in his Holy Sonnets; darkly moving and highly demanding, they are among his finest work.