Schumann and the English Romantics

Schumann and the English Romantics

A recital series with James Gilchrist and Anna Tilbrook

'The poetry is full of misty, veiled night-time scenes where one is not quite sure what is going on – there are knights and maidens and strange happenings down in the valley.'

James Gilchrist

About the Project

Tenor James Gilchrist and pianist Anna Tilbrook take to the stage at Wigmore Hall for a series of three recitals across three seasons, performing Robert Schumann’s song cycles alongside music inspired by the English Romantic poets. The project premieres three new commissions from major British composers: Scottish composer Sally Beamish looks to the Gothic, setting Percy Shelley’s ‘Ode to the West Wind’, performed alongside Eichendorff’s mist-shrouded Liederkreis (op.39). Heine’s Liederkreis (op.24) is paired with Julian Philips’ new setting of poetry by John Clare, exploring man’s connection with the natural world.  Finally, the journeying protagonist of Heine’s Dichterliebe finds an echo in a new work by Jonathan Dove.

(All performances take place at the Wigmore Hall, London)

22 June 2016
Robert Schumann: Liederkreis, op.39
Felix Mendelssohn: Settings of Heine, Byron & Eichendorff
Franz Liszt: Settings of Heine & Goethe
Sally Beamish (b.1956): World premiere of new work

This performance was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

20 September 2016
Gerald Finzi: Oh Fair to See
Julian Philips (b.1969): World premiere of new work
Robert Schumann: Liederkreis, op.24
Gustav Mahler: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen

2 November 2017
Programme includes Schumann songs and the world premiere of a new work by Jonathan Dove



Click here to read James Gilchrist’s interview with BBC Music Magazine about the English Romantics project.

Opera Today review, June 2016
Claire Seymour

‘Tilbrook’s delicate pianissimo wonderfully evoked the dreamy exoticism of the third section of Shelley’s poem. The accompaniment’s sparse textures and ‘barely-there’ gestures, anchored by a steady quaver pulsing, were a perfect support for the tenor’s incantatory lyricism. His diction superbly crisp, Gilchrist made much of the imagery. …Beamish’s text-setting recalls Britten and Purcell in its alertness to the rhythmic potential of the words and the clarity of the sometimes angular melodic line. Gilchrist proved himself the perfect proponent of the work, communicating with a naturalness and directness which complemented the easy, conversational flow of Shelley’s iambic pentameter. I hope that we have the chance to hear West Wind again soon.’

Evening Standard Review, June 2016
Pianist and tenor in perfect harmony, 4*
Barry Millington

‘Contemporary music is very much on the roster at the Wigmore Hall these days, with no fewer than 40 commissions coming to fruition this season. One of these is a setting of Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind by Sally Beamish, for the tenor James Gilchrist.

Beamish’s attractive work obliquely references Schumann’s Liederkreis – also on the programme – but is otherwise a personal response to the poem. The anger of the second stanza was communicated by Gilchrist, as was the languorous Mediterranean setting of the third. He began and ended offstage, suggesting the wind-driven leaves of the first verse and the famous “trumpet of a prophecy” of the last.

The opening Mendelssohn group demonstrated Gilchrist’s command of half-tone, sometimes just a thread of sound. In a Liszt group he ventured a greater range of tone, generally better focused, occasionally at last using the full voice, even exploiting a more baritonal register in There was a King in Thule. Liszt’s too-infrequently performed songs are a gift too for an accomplished pianist and here Anna Tilbrook realised the miraculous keyboard textures beautifully.

In the Liszt songs and Schumann’s Liederkreis, Op 39, her exceptionally skilled playing complemented Gilchrist’s vocal subtlety to perfection. In both this cycle and a Schumann encore, Gilchrist essayed a full range of tone that more than once achieved an expressive result of almost unbearable poignancy’.


Project Manager

Sue Nicholls (Cambridge)