Northern Landscapes

Today’s lunchtime concert in the RBA was a recital of Nordic art songs given by students from the University of Toronto’s music programme.  The musical line up could certainly have been chosen for more variety.  With the exception of some Sibelius at the end it was all a bit “Grieg and his buddies greatest hits”.  This was rather reinforced by MC Steven Philcox’s rather prolix introductory remarks on each composer which can be summed up as as:

X was born into a wealthy family in Stockholm/Oslo/Copenhagen in 1840/50/60 and despite his father’s wish that he study law/medicine/for the Diplomatic he decided on a career in music and studied composition in Berlin/Dresden/Leipzig.  His music was influenced by Swedish/Danish/Norwegian folklore.  He wrote lots of stuff including no less than 200/400/800 songs for voice and piano

Anyway on to the performances.  First up was soprano Katherine Napiwotzki accompanied by Rachel Ewing with a set of Greig songs.  She has a pleasant enough lyric soprano and gave competent, if rather undercharacterised readings of the songs.  I didn’t really hear anything though to make her stand out from any of the other millions of light lyric sopranos in masters’ programmes.

The second set, of songs by Kilipine, came from an undergrad soprano called Adanya Dunn with Evan Mounce on piano.  This was a voice with a bit more character; darker in the middle with a clear top register.  She also had good German diction and could act though one might argue she was hamming it up more than one should in a lieder recital.  I liked Mounce’s work on the piano too.  A pair to watch.

Tenor Charles Sly with Jenna Richards on piano did songs by Weyse, Lange-Müller and Heise.  He’s a genuine tenor with no sign of forcing the high notes.  It’s not a big instrument as yet but it is very nice to listen to.  He also sang very tastefully, maybe a little too much so.   He’s an undergrad so a long way to go and a fair bit of potential I think.

Olenka Slywynska and Kimberley Bartczak performed two Nocturnes by Rangström.  Slywynska was billed as a mezzo but her very dark, Slavic middle and lower registers suggest that there’s a contralto lurking in there.  It’s certainly an extremely interesting and quite powerul voice.  I was thinking Jezibaba.

Right at the end we got a bit of a change of musical pace with three songs by Sibelius.  These were performed by a couple of second year undergrads; soprano Danika Steckler and pianist Madeleine Christie.  Besides being much the most interesting music of the session this was also perhaps the most interesting performance.  For such a young singer, Steckler has quite a mature sounding and powerful voice.  She was completely in command of the toughest music in the programme and sang with a really interesting range of tone colours.  She seemed to know what sort of sound she wanted to produce and could conjure it up on demand.  It was really quite impressive given where she is in her development.  One to watch.

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