Brandon Cedel in the RBA

Yesterday’s RBA concert was at the unusual hour of 5.30pm and featured bass-baritone Brandon Cedel with Sandra Horst at the piano.  It was a nicely balanced programme.  Cedel began with Purcell’s Arise, ye subterranean winds from The Tempest.  It’s one of those very Purcellian arias for low voice that feature long, not especially fast runs and put a lot of demands on the singer’s technique.  Cedel’s is very solid.  He can shape a line too and his English diction is excellent.  There was some particular fine playing from Sandra Horst here too.

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Two more baroque arias followed; both Handel.  Vieni, o cara, a consolarmi from Rinaldo is a more reflective number sung with considerable feeling.  Thus Saith The Lord… But Who May Abide from Messiah is much more dramatic and got the treatment.  By this point it was clear that Cedel is very much at the bass end of bass baritone.  The high notes are there but it’s the power and resonance of the lower register that really impresses.

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The second set was the Vier ernste Gesänge of Brahms.  These are settings of texts from the Lutheran Bible that likely make Bible literalists extrememly uncomfortable.  The settings are pretty dark too.  Singer and pianist both were able to conjure up the emotional depth these songs need.  A bit disturbing in a way.

The final set was in total contrast.  We got five of the Copland Old American Songs.  There were the bouncy The Boatman’s Dance and Ching-A-Ring Chaw and the simple but rather beautiful Simple Gifts and The River finishing up with Zion’s Walls.  Cedel was very at home in this material.  He has just the right kind of “Aw Shucks” charm for these songs.  Once again one was reminded, as with Peter Sellars on the weekend, that there are still fundamentally decent people to our south.

The encore was a very elegant version of Some Enchanted Evening.  All in all a very accomplished and enjoyable show.

Photo credit: Chris Hutcheson

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