We went to a recital of French and Mexican vocal music at Heliconian Hall yeaterday. It was given by soprano Renée Bouthot and pianist Ana Cervantes. Far the most interesting part sof the programme were the Mexican pieces. Federico Ibarra’s 1988 setting of Tres Canciones by Lorca was really fine. The three pieces were quite varied. Canción has a complex piano part, an interesting vocal line and quite playful interaction between the two. By no means always to be found in modern art song. Canción de Cuna has a less interesting, kind of scoopy vocal line but a really virtuoso piano part while the final Canción de la muerte pequeña blends a wildly percussive piano part with dance rhythms in the vocal line. All three texts are really interesting too.
El Viaje nocturno de Quetzalpapálotl by Horacio Uribe is taken from a suite of piano pieces; Canto de la Monarca: Mujeres en México commissioned by Cervantes in 2008. Quetzalpapálotl is an Aztec deity; half bird, half butterfly which also embodies the spirit of men killed in battle and women who die in childbirth. It’s a meditative sort of piece and well worth a listen. It was quite beautifully played though I don’t think the Heliconian’s piano or its acoustic were doing it any favours.
The rest of the program was early 20th century French piano pieces and chansons. It’s not really my favourite music and the songs by Debussy and Poulenc really suffered from the boomy, diffuse acoustic with the words rather disappearing into the roof space. I did enjoy two Debussu etudes which were played with considerable verve and some humour by Cervantes.