You Review: Sir Thomas Allen

Reader Matthew Tozer enjoys a fine Winterreise at the opening of RNCM’s new concert hall

You Review: Sir Thomas Allen

In her pre-concert address, principal of the Royal Northern College of Music Linda Merrick, promised a truly memorable performance of Schubert’s Winterreise to launch the newly refurbished concert hall. It’s hoped that her prescience applies also to her optimism about the future success of the venue.

As the RNCM does every day, this programme brought together youth and experience to spectacular effect: the young pianist Joseph Middleton was a sensitive partner to Sir Thomas Allen’s wanderer. The pace never plodded and there were pleasures aplenty as detail after detail shone splendidly in the hall’s new acoustic. 

Allen is by now more the personification of Schubert’s lovelorn traveller in the aria ‘Der Greise Kopf’, transformed by his winter’s journey, than he is the bitter youth at the start of the cycle. 

However, the passage of time has been gentle on Allen and his voice remains one of the most beautiful of British baritones. There is even the benefit of greater colour and depth in the lower register. At full volume, and towards the middle and upper ranges, his voice still resonates with glorious tone, reminiscent of the past Don Giovannis and Billy Budds he has played. 

There is a wonderful moment of transition between ‘Der Wegweiser’ and ‘Das Wirtshaus’ where the wanderer accepts the burden of the onward journey. Allen’s hunched form with occluded tones in the former become a noble, upright figure accompanied by a telling openness of tone in the latter. 

As I stood by the artists’ entrance after the concert, waiting for Sir Tom to sign my ancient copy of his CD recording of Winterreise, I overheard a student telling her mother on the phone that she couldn’t talk for too long because she was just about to meet her favourite singer, ever! May RNCM and its audiences enjoy many more evenings of this quality in the new hall.

Matthew Tozer, Cambridgeshire



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