Festival review: Ferrier Centenary Celebration Concert; Edinburgh Queen’s Hall

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IT WAS unfortunate for Saturday’s Queen’s Hall audience, performers and, not least, young South African baritone Njabulo Madlala that he was floored by a virus and unable to sing.

Too late for a replacement, it was left to fellow Kathleen Ferrier award-winner Kitty Whately and, at the other end of the career spectrum, Sir Thomas Allen to reshuffle their repertoire and produce a highly enjoyable programme of French chansons and British folksongs.

Opening with the unaccompanied Ma Bonny Lad, one of Ferrier’s own favourites, mezzo-soprano Whately’s pure and direct delivery was immediately enchanting. Not quite 30, yet with an easy self-assurance, Whately’s lightly-hued voice is still developing. Her understated lyrical style was just right for Debussy’s settings of Pierre Louÿs late 19th century French take on ancient Greece.

Sir Thomas may not have the voice he once had, but he has a rock-solid vocal technique that, coupled with his maturity, brought magical, dark moments to Duparc and a lot of fun to Ravel’s Don Quixote songs.

Incomparable accompanist Roger Vignoles was on top form, his own brilliant arrangements of traditional songs providing a fitting finale.

Rating: ****