To the Distant Beloved

I’m late to the party on this one.  I had set aside time on Sunday to watch Russell Braun, Carolyn Maule and Miriam Khalil’s recital from Koerner Hall (one of the Mazzoleni Songmasters series) when first broadcast.  For whatever reason I couldn’t get it to mirror onto the big screen in a watchable way so I ended up watching it on my laptop yesterday.  So it goes.


It’s a conventional Lieder recital in concert dress filmed in Koerner Hall.  I say this because this is an increasingly rare format as producers find more filmic ways of presenting song.  Anyway, the core of the recital, and to my mind, the highlight was Russell singing Beethoven’s best known song cycle An die ferne Geliebte.  This was very fine with subtle, expressive singing and extremely sympathetic accompaniment.  It was about as good as lieder gets.

The second major chunk of the program was last year’s CASP commission; Asheghane-ha.  This is a setting of three Sufi devotional texts in Farsi composed for Miriam Khalil by Afarin Mansouri.  The first two texts were set in a simple but effective, almost retro, way but the last, text by Rumi, gets into more dramatic territory, especially for the piano, and also allows the singer to explore the intersection between Western classical and Persian classical singing.  This, of course, is something few people can do as well as Miriam.  I don’t think this is my favourite CASP commission but I think it’s good that they are willing to explore a linguistic world beyond the handful of European languages that we usually associate with art song.

The rest of the programme was a mix of German lieder with a couple of American songs (John Musto and Ricky Ian Gordon) thrown in.  It included a lovely version of Schumann’s Widmung sung by Russell and some duets, by Cornelius, Mendelssohn and Brahms, which are always fun.  

All in all, a carefully curated and well sung afternoon of Lieder.  I really miss seeing this sort of music live and however good the production (and this was pretty good) it’s not really the same at all.  Should you wish to see this recital it is available on-line until Saturday but it’s a ticketed event ($10) with tickets available at the RCM (virtual) box office.

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