The founder members are Mary Bevan (soprano), Clara Mouriz (mezzo-soprano), Allan Clayton (tenor), Marcus Farnsworth (baritone) and Joseph Middleton (piano). In their first seasons together the Myrthen Ensemble enjoyed performances at Snape Maltings as part of an Aldeburgh Festival residency, broadcast for BBC Radio 3, and gave a triumphant launch concert in London: “For sheer joy – for youthful panache and heartfelt commitment – nothing I have experienced musically this year comes near to matching this lovely soirée… there was no mistaking its exceptional musicality – every phrase was coloured and shaped, everything emotionally felt” (Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph). They have gone on to perform at the Wigmore Hall, as well as for BBC Radio 3 from the Bath MozartFest, Leeds Lieder, Newbury Spring, Norwich and Norfolk, Wimbledon, Northern Aldborough and St Magnus Festivals. 2016/17 sees them appear at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw and at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The individual members can be heard in the world’s finest opera houses, musical centres and on numerous award-winning recordings. Their début CD, Songs to the Moon, was released in 2016 on the Signum label.
The group takes its name from the composition Robert Schumann wrote as a wedding present for his wife Clara in 1840. Myrtles have for centuries been seen as the German symbol of marriage and their modest form seems an apt image for the relationship between words and music, singer and pianist, imagination and sound and performer and audience. The vignette the group use to display their name has been designed using the ‘ornamental binding’ which Schumann’s original score carried. Delving into the treasure chest that makes up the canon of the song repertoire, The Myrthen Ensemble explores all areas of art-song through illuminating and thoughtful programming.
Video & Audio
From The Green Room
17 Aug 16 Songs to the Moon Debut CD Signum Records
“An engaging programme, mixing solos by each of the starry young singers with rare ensemble works. Pianist Joseph Middleton excels throughout.”
4****BBC Music Magazine
“Joseph Middleton reinforces his reputation as the finest accompanist amongst the younger generations…Excellent sound, authoritative notes from Middleton and Richard Stokes, as well as texts and translations add to this rewarding nocturnal journey. Well worth exploring.”
4**** Evan Dickerson, Classical Ear, 21 June 2016
“Undoubtedly the star of the evening, though, was the pianist, Joseph Middleton with his sensitivity to the voices and ability to summon up the mood of each piece through deft use of speed, dynamic and colour.”
Barry Creasy – MusicOMH – Myrthen Ensemble Wigmore Hall Review
“The four voices blend beautifully in quartets by Brahms… Gounod’s delicious ‘Revons, c’est l’heure’ from Mouriz and Bevan. The solo songs find Clayton at his most fervent in Warlock’s ‘To the Night’, and Farnsworth sounding impishly sexy in Schumann’s ‘Zwei venetianische Lieder’. Best of all…is Bevan singing Elisabeth Maconchy’s ‘Sun, Moon and Stars’…her voice ascending into the stratosphere with rapturous ease… Middleton is outstanding, his reputation as a rising star among accompanists richly deserved.”
Tim Ashley, Gramophone Magazine, September 2016
11 Nov 14 November 2014 Anthems for a Doomed Youth Bath Mozartfest & Wimbledon International Music Festival
“Even more special was a diverse programme of war-themed songs and quartets performed by the young Myrthen Ensemble, a group of leading early-thirties-ish British-based singers — the soprano Katherine Broderick, the mezzo Clara Mouriz, the tenor Benjamin Hulett and the baritone Marcus Farnsworth, with the pianist Joseph Middleton — under the rubric Anthems for a Doomed Youth. Two Schubert partsongs, Grab und Mond (Grave and Moon) and Begräbnislied (Burial Song) set a sombre tone, but Wolf’s The Drummer Boy, wryly sung by Farnsworth, offered a moment of light relief in an otherwise intense and moving programme.
It might seem invidious to single out individual performances in such a collaborative venture, but Hulett and Broderick brought the dialogue of a young soldier and his beloved at home vividly to life in Mahler’s Wo die schonen Trompeten blasen (Where the beautiful trumpets blow), while Mouriz was simply devastating in Granados’s harrowing song of loss, La maja dolorosa (The woman in mourning) — her tone sumptuous, her chest notes piercing like daggers, her pain palpable. A wonderful young artist, superbly partnered by Middleton, who earned his solo spot: a John Ireland rarity, Spring will not wait, an elegy for boyhood friends killed in the war.”
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times, 16 November 2014
20 May 14 BBC Music Magazine Myrthen Ensemble
“Heirs to pianist Graham Johnson’s much-missed Songmakers’ Almanac, The Myrthen-Ensemble follows their example with an irresistible combination of arresting programming and vocal flair assembled around pianist Joseph Middleton.”
BBC Music Magazine, May 2014
29 Mar 12 The Myrthen Ensemble Launch Queen’s Gate Terrace
“For sheer joy – for youthful panache and heartfelt commitment – nothing I have experienced musically this year comes near to matching this lovely soirée, given in the salon of a private house in South Kensington before a small invited audience. What a privilege to be there!
The concert marked the inauguration of a new group, The Myrthen Ensemble, named after a song that Schumann sent to his wife Clara and modelled on the fondly remembered Songmakers’ Almanac. Like the latter, it consists of a pianist and a quartet of singers functioning as a team of friends rather than stand-alone stars – here they are Joseph Middleton, and soprano Sophie Bevan, mezzo-soprano Clara Mouriz, tenor Allan Clayton and baritone Marcus Farnsworth.
This line-up represents the crème de la crème of young British-based musical talent, and even though they were singing in a room with a dry and unresponsive acoustic, there was no mistaking its exceptional musicality – every phrase was coloured and shaped, everything emotionally felt…
The programme was most intelligently devised by Joseph Middleton, an unfailingly sensitive accompanist. The first half consisted largely of duets and quartets by Brahms and Schumann, with Bevan and Clayton’s enchanting interplay in Schumann’s flirtatious “Unterm Fenster” being a highlight.
The second half was more miscellaneous, solos and duets from various composers focused on themes of night, darkness and the moon. Mouriz glowed in a rapt account of Hahn’s “L’heure exquise”, while Farnsworth displayed a sultry swagger in Saint-Saëns’s “Guitares et mandolines”. Best of all, however, was a Clayton’s hushed singing of a gorgeously shimmering setting of “Clair de lune”, by a composer bluntly identified in the programme only as Szulc ( Josef Szulc, 1875-1956, according to the internet).
The Myrthen Ensemble will be performing at the Wigmore Hall next season. I hope and predict we will be hearing a lot more of them over the coming years.”
Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, 30 March 2012