With apt coincidence the Buxton Festival had scheduled this recital for a stormy Saturday because it was as tempestuous inside as it was out.
A wildly eclectic affair, it began in the vocal turbulence of scenery-chewing accounts of Where Shall I Fly from Handel’s Hercules and two Brahms songs, including the fabulous Von ewiger Liebe.
The world-renowned, Worksop-born soprano turned mezzo-soprano can never have been said to being temperamentally suited to singing Lieder in either voice range – or, arguably, Handel.
Admittedly, the singer was getting over one virus after another but allowing for lingering indisposition, the basic interpretations were all wrong.
The voice actually sounded in terrific shape and four Tchaikovsky songs gave more suitable scope for the dramatic intensity Plowright has always sung with, especially The Bride’s Lament – sung in Russian, so Op 47/ 7 may identify it better.
Manuel de Falla’s Seven Popular Spanish Songs were given the Plowright treatment, and very colourful it was, too; and three Kurt Weill pieces, Der Abschiedsbrief, Je ne t’aime pas, Surabaya Johnny, were compellingly sung.
Having feared the worst after her Brahms, Britten’s O Waly, Waly was a thing of restrained but positive beauty, and Stanford’s La belle Dame sans merci and Frank Bridge’s Love went a’riding, similarly, were vibrantly and extremely well sung.
Philip Mountford vividly succeeded in the unenviable task of contending with some pretty demanding, stylistically diverse piano music and staying on the same wavelength as the diva as she roamed the stage with a variety of dramatic gestures.