Last night Sir Peter Pears ended his visit in the Washington area by joining faculty members at the University of Maryland in a concert to benefit the Britten/Pears School for Advanced Musical Studies. Two of the faculty members, Linda Mabbs and James McDonald, had studied with Pears in Aldeburgh, and they helped to arrange his series of master classes at the University this week.
The mark of Pears' musicianship was upon the evening, which was characterized by the most careful attention to the diction and emotional nuances of each song. Despite a slight hoarseness, Pears displayed, as always, his extraordinary artistic sensibility which leaves no note unturned in the search for expressive subleties.
There were many exceptional moments in the program. Joined by Orrin Olson on the French horn, tenor McDonald found a variety of colors to achieve a moving performance of Britten's poignant Canticle III. Mabbs' pure soprano sound was a lovely match with the dark quality of Pears' voice in some Schubert duets.
The glory of the evening was Pears' singing of folk songs arranged for him by Britten. With their simple melodies he moved into those rare artistic depths which have been his home territory for decades.