THE fourth in the current series of Kendal Midday concerts featured six musicians, writes CLIVE WALKLEY. Tenor, Charles Daniels, has a prolific recording legacy - over 90 recordings; pianist, Michael Dussek, has more than 30 years experience on the concert platform and the Bridge String Quartet have featured in concerts throughout the world since 1989. Reading their biographies before the concert lead to eager anticipation that we would hear polished performances by six very experienced artists. And this was how it was.

The programme centred around English works from the early years of the 20th century by Vaughan Williams, Ivor Gurney and Frank Bridge and the concert began with Vaughan William’s settings of poems from A E Housman’s A Shropshire Lad.

Housman’s poems attracted many composers at the turn of the century but Vaughan Williams’ settings must surely be among the finest. There is a bittersweet quality to the six songs which make up his cycle: the opening turbulence of the first song as a storm blows across the Wrekin is countered by the cheerful nature of the fourth song and the cycle ends in tranquillity with the heart-stopping Clun.

The evocative nature of this fine cycle was fully demonstrated in the performance. The tenor, by virtue of his role as storyteller, tends to dominate the ensemble but the piano and strings have crucial roles to play in creating the necessary atmosphere. Vaughan William’s colourful scoring reveals his genius at an early stage in his career and, generally, a good balance was achieved between the frequent shimmering string tremolos, the forceful piano chords and tenor voice. For those sitting in the gallery, there were times when the piano seemed over-dominant but listeners downstairs may have got a different impression. Charles Daniels’ colourful characterisation in the third song Is My Team Ploughing? was particularly poignant and his mellifluous delivery of the cycle’s lyrical vocal lines, and Ivor Gurney’s song Sleep, was a sheer delight.

Frank Bridge’s early Piano Quintet, which formed the second half of the programme, is an intense work, full of passionate outbursts interspersed with lyrical passages. Its dense textures create a challenge for the performers: a piano with the lid fully open can overwhelm a string quartet and there were times when the string players could have been more forceful. However, this was a committed interpretation from seasoned performers who, having recorded the work, clearly know it well. For anyone not familiar with Frank Bridge’s early music it was good to have an opportunity to encounter this important work in a live performance.