There’s something very special about a song recital by a really good singer at the top of his/her game in a space conducive to song. The stars conjoined yesterday to yield a recital by Adrianne Pieczonka with pianist Rachel Andrist in the song friendly acoustic of Mazzoleni Hall, as part of the Mazzoleni Songmasters series.
There were four sets. The first featured Schubert, from perhaps overexposed numbers like An Sylvia to less well known works like one of the Wilhelm Meister songs. But even a warhorse like Gretchen am Spinnrade takes on a new lustre when it’s in the hands of a master of the form. Which is not to diss the dozens of young singers I’ve heard do it in competitions and student showcases but… When it really is effortless it becomes something new again.
Wagner didn’t actually write the Wesendonck Lieder for Adrianne but he might as well have done. They are the perfect fit. They need both a fair bit of heft and a Lieder singer’s sensibility and perfect German diction is handy too. Nuff said.
The surprise package of the programme was Korngold’s Four Shakespeare Songs op. 31. The four songs are Desdemona’s Song (the familiar Willow Song), Under the Greenwood Tree from As You Like It, Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind and When Birds Do Sing (aka It was a Lover and his Lass). These are interesting settings with quite a spare accompaniment (I was fixating on Rachel’s right hand!) which sometimes seems to hint at Korngold’s film music. Quite a different ascetic too from Finzi. The last in particular doesn’t sound nearly as much as if written for a drunken madrigal party. Definitely a welcome discovery.
A Strauss set (of course) closed out the printed programme. Nothing out of the ordinary about the choice of songs here but who is going to complain about closing on radiant accounts of Allerseelen and Zueignung. Not this scribe that’s for sure.
The encore was Ernest Charles When I Have Sung My Songs, appropriately enough followed by a singalong White Christmas. A bit early perhaps but it was Grey Cup Sunday which is the official opening of Advent in the United Church calendar.
I know this is a bit gushy. I don’t care. It needed to be.
Rubbish photo by me with ancient iPhone.