Critic Reviews London Premiere of Avebury Stone Circles

Just before spring break music department chair and Professor Dr. John Fisher set off to London to go with South African soprano Suré Eloff as they premiered the song cycle “Avebury Stone Circles” by Gregory Rose.

The pair put on two separate performances; premiere night was Thursday March 13th, on the stage of Church of St. Mary-le-bow, Cheapside, London. The encore performance was held Saturday March 15th, at the site that inspired the Avebury song cycles, St. James Church, Avebury, Wiltshire.

There were two separate song cycles for each concert, preceding London-based composer Gregory Rose’s “Avebury Stone Circles” was the song cycle by Samuel Barber titled “Hermit Songs.”

The Headlining Composer Mr. Rose is internationally recognized as a composer and conductor specializing in music of the 20th and 21st Centuries. The song Cycle written by Rose wich inspired Neolithic henge monument that surrounds part of Avebury village in Wiltshire, Southwest England.

It was Rose who wrote both the music and the words for his 28-minute song cycle that had its world premiere at Wesleyan’s Martin Hall last October of 2013. Not only did Eloff sing the songs, but she was also the one responsible for commissioning Rose to write “Avebury Stone Circles.” Fisher played piano in the London premiere, same as the world premiere at Wesleyan last year.

Opening night of the London performance Robert Matthew-Walker reviewed the performance, who at first drew on a comparison between Rose’s talent and the talent of Benjamin Britten.

“It must be exceptionally difficult for any composer today,” Matthew-Walker wrote in (citation needed for critique), “let alone an English one, to contemplate a song-cycle – in which Britten was pre-eminent… Nonetheless, in his latest such work, Gregory Rose has been able to create a large and important work wherein the influence of Britten is small, at best, this lunchtime performance being given by the very gifted soprano who commissioned it.”

Matthew-Walker continued to critique Rose’s composition with a first point out how “awkward” some of the lyrics were.

“One also felt the lack of variety in underlying motion,” Matthew-Walker said.

The critic did have some compliments to give although they were mainly directed towards the commissioner of the cycle.

“…despite my occasional quibbles, made a strong impression – the more so in this magnificent performance. Suré Eloff is a fine soprano, and her tone was sublime. She gave an account which left a lasting impression.”

Walker ended the review complementing the cycle he seemed to enjoy more – Barber’s “Hermit Songs.”

“The recital therefore opened with these superb settings by a greatly significant American composer, who would have been delighted with the account Eloff and her outstanding partner John Fisher gave,” Matthew-Walker said in the critique.

While certain aspects of Rose’s song cycles did not particularly impress one critic who holds this genre to the standard of an apparent genius, Matthew-Walker had nothing but compliments for Wesleyan’s Fisher and soprano Eloff.

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