Tuesday’s lunchtime concert in the RBA was a really well thought out programme by two of the prize winners from last year’s Montreal International Music Competition; soprano Meredith Wolgemuth and pianist Jinhee Park. The first set was a nicely characterised version of the quite varied Grieg Sechs Lieder op.48. Most of these are fairly sentimental German Romantic texts but Meredith and Jinhee injected lightness and humour where it was appropriate in, for instance, “Lauf der Welt”.
The second set was Ophelia themed with Wolf’s Verborgenheit and Schubert’s Nacht und Träme bookending Alison Bauld’s Ophelia’s Lament. The Bauld piece is long and difficult with some of the text spoken and much sung a cappella. The piano part comes and goes and when it’s there it’s intricate. The singer needs to be able to sing some pretty difficult music and speak some pretty tricky Shakespeare properly. Meredith did both with some real depth of understanding and characterization. Definitely the highlight for me.
Poulenc’s playful Métamorpohoses and Bachelet’s Chère Nuit followed before the big surprise of the programme; five of the short songs from Lionel Daunais’ Fantaisie dans tous les tons. Scarcely anyone except Canadian francophones over seventy has even heard of Daunais so it’s remarkable that he should be picked up by two young Americans. Anyway, these songs fall more into the genre of his humorous songs for Radio Canada than his more serious stuff and they really are very silly but fun! An example would be “Mauve” which plays on all the “V-words”; violet, voiture, violent, vie, vent, vol by way of Venicien and Valencie to viola d’amore. It’s bold to take on quite colloquial Québecois French too. I doubt it’s covered at Juilliard.
A very fine recital finished up with two of the songs from Obradors’ Spanish Classical Songs; an entirely suitable ending to a very varied set of songs very well performed.
Photo credits: Karen E. Reeves
Thank you for writing about this afternoon recital! Meredith and Jinhee first presented the Daunais songs at the Concours musical international de Montréal semi-final round in June 2022, as the required selection of Canadian repertoire. I understand that Meredith received some excellent French coaching from her Québecois host family!
I spoke to them afterwards about it. I knew about the CMIM connection but not that Meredith had had “native” coaching! It’s odd. I reviewed a CD of Daunais songs for Opera Canada not so long ago but had never heard of him before that.