Andrew Ager’s Führerbunker is a short chamber opera depicting the events leading up to Hitler’s suicide in April 1945.  It’s a tautly constructed work in which many short scenes are woven into a seamless and compelling whole.  It flies by and its 45 minute length seems even shorter.  The score is spare, even brutal, as befits the subject matter.  The composer told me he had initially envisioned something Wagnerian but feared that that must descend into pastiche.  He made the right decision.  So, the piano line is minimalist with elements of serialism and very  little support for the singers.  It’s a style that has perhaps been largely discarded (in north America at least) but here it was startlingly effective.  Perhaps the crappy Tranzac Club piano contributed to the effect!

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More contemporary music

Andrew Ager’s Führerbunker is coming to Toronto under the auspices of the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy.  It plays at the Tranzac Club on May 1st and 2nd at 7.30pm.  It’s a one hour piece, in German, dealing with the last days of the Hitler regime.  There’s an article about it at Musical Toronto.  Tickets are available here.

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Canadian Art Song Project again

Today saw the premiere of the Canadian Art Song Project’s second annual commission (My review of last year’s effort).  This time it was Norbert Palej’s Small Songs; a setting of ten texts from Jan Zwicky’s Thirty-seven Small Songs & Thirteen Silences.  It’s an ambitious piece drawing on a wide range of vocal and piano colours and occasionally on non-standard technique.  That said, although sounding like a work from the 21st century it’s really quite accessible to anyone with any familiarity at all with modern art song.  Some passages were really lovely.  I especially like the haunting and clever setting of Small song on being lost which evokes the loneliness of the sea and the self.  The piece that followed; Small song for the moon in the daytime was also rather special ending movingly on “the wind is   nowhere   to be found”.  All in all, great integration of text and music as art song should be.  The composer “warned” us up front that the music was extremely difficult to perform because he was writing it for two very fine musicians.  They didn’t disappoint.  Tenor Lawrence Wiliford used all of his range; dynamically, colourwise and pitchwise to give a very text sensitive reading and he was very well accompanied by long time collaborator Steven Philcox at the piano.

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The French connection

Today’s free lunchtime concert in the RBA was given by Topher Mokrzewski wearing his pianist hat; as opposed to his conductor, accompanist, music director, vocal coach or tap dancing hat.


Photo credit: Chris Hutcheson

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