Todays concert in the UoT’s Thursdays at Noon series at Walter Hall was given by baritone Giles Tomkins, soprano Elizabeth McDonald, pianist Kathryn Tremills, clarinettist Peter Stoll and cellist Lydia Munchinsky. The music they played was sometimes in familiar combinations of players and sometimes very much not. Hence the title.
The show opened with two songs from Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel. The Vagabond was given in conventional form with Giles singing in a fine, muscular baritone accompanied on piano but for Let Beauty Awake the baritone was replaced by cello in an intriguingly lyrical wordless version. The concert closed with more from this cycle. Three songs this time, with Elizabeth singing The Infinite Shining Heavens with piano, Giles joining her for an arrangement of Whither must I wander? and finally, a lovely version of I have trod the upward and downward path for all five players. Each variation added a layer of interpretation to this gorgeous but very familiar set of songs.
In between we got part of Bach’s Ich habe genug with clarinet taking the oboe obbligato and piano the upper strings. Giles showed some skill here singing in a more lyrical, lighter style than earlier. There was a completely nutzoid Fantasia on La Traviata by Donato Lovreglio for clarinet and piano. All the familiar tunes were there but packed into a clarinet line that would have challenged two or three players to get all the notes in.
Strauss’ Morgen! got the hybrid piano/orchestra treatment with the cell playing the familiar melody quite beautifully and Elizabeth making a nice job of this deceptively tricky piece. Then there was Mahler’s Um Mitternacht arranged by Stoll for soprano, cello, piano and bass clarinet (not a misprint). This created a slightly bizarre but utterly Mahlerian soundworld. With some powerful singing from Elizabeth, elegant cello, intricate pianism and some rather wonderful woodwindy oompahing it was a novelty but an impressive one.
It was an intriguing framework for a concert and I thoroughly enjoyed it. And there were surtitles for the non English texts.