Today’s recital in the RBA was given by Russell Braun. Carolyn Maule and members of the COC orchestra. The programme, Journeys of the Soul, divided into two quite distinct halves. In the first, Russell was joined by Marie Bedard and Dominique Laplants (violins), Keith Hamm (viola) and Paul Widner (cello) in a performance of Samuel Barber’s Dover Beach; a setting of a text by Matthew Arnold. It’s a very dark text and rather an extraordinary choice for a twenty year old. The music is equally dark and brooding. It’s a great work for Russell though and plays well to the colours of his voice and his keen attention to text. It was a pleasure to hear in the very intimate atmosphere of the RBA.
The second half of the concert consisted of Fauré’s La bonne chanson; a setting of love poems by Paul Verlaine (do all French composers set Verlaine?). This was a real contrast with texts about love, songbirds and winter turning to summer quite playfully and wittily set. Originally composed for voice and piano, we got to hear the later arrangement for voice, piano and string quintet (for this piece the ensemble added Carolyn Maule on piano and Alan Molitz on bass). This was another good fit for Russell giving him lots of scope to work with the text. Of the nine songs in the cycle I particularly liked Avant que tu ne t’en ailles with its amusing evocation of quails and larks as well as L’hiver a cessé because, at last, finally it seems to have and I liked the way Fauré worked together the piano and pizzicato strings.
We got an encore too; a reprise of the eighth song in the cycle N’est-ce pas. It’s a beautiful text simply set.
N’est-ce pas? nous irons gais et lents, dans la voie
Modeste que nous montre en souriant l’Espoir,
Peu soucieux qu’on nous ignore ou qu’on nous voie.
Isolés dans l’amour ainsi qu’en un bois noir,
Nos deux coeurs, exhalant leur tendresse paisible,
Seront deux rossignols qui chantent dans le soir.
Sans nous préoccuper de ce que nous destine
Le Sort, nous marcherons pourtant du même pas,
Et la main dans la main, avec l’âme enfantine.
De ceux qui s’aiment sans mélange, n’est-ce pas?
Because, yes, it is.