Ossian Huskinson, bass-baritone and Matthew Fletcher, piano
February 17 2022
Review: William Ruff
Ossian Huskinson: an impressive young singer – and a name to watch
Lovers of English song were lucky that Storm Eunice didn’t arrive in time to wreck Ossian Huskinson’s Lakeside recital on Thursday. Ossian is an alumnus of Nottingham University who graduated in 2016. Still in his twenties he has a fine, mature bass-baritone voice: rich, incisive, powerful. He said he was glad to be back – and it showed. He and pianist Matthew Fletcher not only appeared at ease in their surroundings, but they clearly had the measure of the Djanogly Recital Hall, tailoring their performance to the acoustic intimacy of the space and achieving a satisfying balance between voice and piano.
Their programme was an hour’s worth of some of the best-known English art songs by Vaughan Williams and John Ireland together with a smattering of less familiar but equally winning songs by Ernest Farrar, Michael Head, Frederick Keel and Peter Warlock.
The first sequence of songs evoked the world of the wanderer in the English countryside, songs which glowed with vivid imagery of country lanes, orchards in bloom, flowing streams and church bells. Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel set the tone for the whole recital, its opening song (‘The Vagabond’) the perfect way for Ossian Huskinson to nail his vocal colours to the mast and for Matthew Fletcher to demonstrate what a sensitive, nuanced partner he is.
The vagabond explores the heavens above and the road below, knowing that fate may intervene but prepared to take the consequences. Huskinson’s operatic experience was obvious in his dramatic rendering of this stoical character, determined to keep going along the open road, apparently unconcerned about wealth, hope or love. The rock-like firmness of his voice in this opening was equally suited to the gentle lyricism of the second song (‘Let Beauty Awake’) and he was able to switch in a moment from tender reflection to passionate exuberance (in ‘Youth and Love’).
The second half of the recital turned to sea songs: John Ireland’s popular Sea Fever, Warlock’s Captain Stratton’s Fancy and Frederick Keel’s Three Salt-Water Ballads. Huskinson’s characterisation was vivid, his way with the tongue-twisting words as assured as his ability to conjure up a world of sunny anchorages, ghostly palm trees and the bones of drowned sailors. Throughout Matthew Fletcher was a subtle, perceptive partner.
Ossian Huskinson appears in Janacek’s Cunning Little Vixen with English National Opera on February 18. As his voice matures further he seems destined to make quite a name for himself in the recital hall and on the operatic stage. Listen out for that name in the future and remember that his journey started in Nottingham.
Ossian Huskinson (Bass-Baritone)
Matthew Fletcher (Piano)