Yesterday’s lunchtime concert in the RBA was a song recital with an Oriental(ist) theme by polyglot soprano Miriam Khalil and pianist Topher Mokrzewski. It kicked off with the two Suleika songs by Schubert to texts by Marianne von Willimer. For my taste Miriam’s voice and treatment of the songs was decidedly on the dramatic side. It was interesting and there’s no doubting the commitment but it’s not my favourite way to hear Schubert. It was all uphill from there though. Ravel’s Shéherazade; Debussy inspired music to texts by Tristan Klingsor, was given an equally dramatic treatment, and Miriam is very dramatic in both voice and body language, but here it worked for me, especially the passionate invocation of the invented East in Asie.
The Spanish songs by Obradors and de Falla that followed were even better. I especially enjoyed Obradors’ Chiquita la novia which is playful with very odd imagery. Two Arabic songs concluded the programme; Said Darwish’s Lamma bada yatathanna and Najib Hankache’s setting of Khalil Gibran’s Aatini el nay wa ghanni, which is a sort of mystical invocation of asceticism and very, very beautiful, especially in the hands of a singer as good as Miriam. Had it been the end, it would have been a lovely way to do it but, of course, there was an encore; one of the songs from Golijov’s Ayre, which I cannot recommend too highly.
First class accompaniment throughout by Mr. Mokrzewski of course, and he is fun to watch.
Photo credits: Karen E. Reeves