Yesterday’s free concert in the RBA featured four members of the Ensemble Studio. Megan Quick and Stéphane Mayer gave us Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen followed by Sam Pickett and Rachel Kerr with Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder. The first set was interesting in that I was so engrossed by Stéphane’s playing that at times I almost drifted away from the singing. He really is a bit remarkable. Few collaborative pianists have that effect. Megan continues to develop as a singer. She has a big, dark mezzo that’s actually so operatic I’m not sure it’s heard to best advantage in lieder with piano accompaniment. Still, she’s developing interpretive skills and her German diction has improved out of all recognition in the past eighteen months. It’s now very good. She took the first song, Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit, really slowly but had the control to pull it off and there was some real lyricism in Die zwei blauen Augen von meinem Schatz.
Sam too is quite operatic though I guess most of the singers I’ve heard do the Wagner are. She seems more at home in this rep anyway. She showed a range of emotions across the five songs and was able to modulate the voice to suit the changing moods from the simplicity of Der Engel through the more expressive Im Treibhaus and the rather fierce Schmerzen. Again I could hear just about every word of the text which is a big plus in songs like these. It was also intriguing to hear the very clear prefiguration of the harmonic structure of Tristan und Isolde in some of the songs, especially Stehe still!
All in all, an enjoyable concert with rep just far enough from the usual RBA/ES fare to tickle the ears.
Photo credit: Chris Hutcheson