For Natalya Romaniw, the journey from Cardiff to Cowbridge for the Cowbridge Music Festival may have been a short one, as she joked to the audience, but the performance of popular and lesser known lieder gave the festival-goers a flavour of why this singer has reached such international appeal.
The meticuloulsy crafted programme included songs from her debut album Arion: Voyage of a Slavic Soul, as it took us on a mesmerising journey through music that so well suits her rich voice, the almost husky sensual sounds that can move into soaring delight, whether Rachmaninov, Janáček, Rimsky-Korsakov or lesser performed works by Novák.
Her programme, exquisitely accompanied by Michael Pollock, was interspersed with anecdotes of student days, her childhood initiation into the music played by her Ukrainian grandfather and little insights into her own personality. Both she and Pollock supplied their audience which just enough background and introduction to the musicians and particular works chosen.
Those works also included songs from Grieg and Strauss, and while there was plenty of angst, longing and loss pouring through the songs, sparkles of joy and even jaunty fun coloured the evening. The evening concluded with a Welsh song to reinforce, as she told her audience, she is a Welsh singer with a Slavic soul.
This was a rare treat and quite a coup for the festival.
The following evening the town’s Holy Cross Church also played host to The Choir of King’s College London for more Russian delight – performing Sergei Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil.
While Romaniw gave a virtuosic evening of the single vartist, the Rachmaninoff was a delicious feast of voices, oustanding solo contributions, and glrious ensemble work.
Charmingly introduced by Joseph Fort, more typically known as the Vespers, Rachmaninoff’s 1915 composition gave these young musicians the vehicle to show their mastery of choral singing and its ability to transfix an audience. This was a very special performance that was clearly appreciated by the large audience with the chemistry between Fort and the singers clear to be seen.
The concert also included a moving and enchanting work Gobaith by Welsh composer Derri Joseph Lewis, a composition of clarity that delights in the qualities of the choristers’ abilities to glorious effect.
This was an evening that captrued the transcendent majesty and haunting beauty of choral song.