Russell Braun and friends

The free concert series that the COC puts on in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre often has interesting programs and frequently the performances are very good indeed. It’s also pretty good value for money. It’s not often though that the line up is as starry as today’s gig. Baritone Russell Braun was joined by his L’Amour du Loin costars Erin Wall (soprano) and Krisztina Szabó (mezzo) plus Ensemble Studio tenor Chris Enns.  On the piano were COC Music Director Johannes Debus and Carolyn Maule.

They kicked off with Brahms’ Liebeslieder-Walzer.  They were performed with verve and skill and quite a bit of humour but I’m afraid it was still Brahms.  In my book Brahms should be loved from afar.  I much preferred the selections from Schumann’s Spanische Liebeslieder which followed.  I particularly liked Russell’s rendering of Flutenreicher Ebro which showed great feeling for the words and real skill in articulating different moods through voice colour.  Krisztina also gave us a ravishing version of Hoch, hoch sind die Berger.

The revelation for me though was John Greer’s settings of Canadian folk songs; All Around the Circle.  Looking at the words I thought this was going to be really hokey but in fact both the vocal arrangements and piano accompaniments are really pretty sophisticated and right up there with better known English and Australian folk song settings for voice and piano.  The quartet gave them all they had.  Lots of attack, good ensemble work and tons of humour.  (One needs humour with a line like “She’ll be waiting for me there with the hambone of a bear”!).  Terrific piano playing here too from Johannes and Carolyn.  It was fun!  (And great value for money)

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