The second set of reGENERATION concerts of the Topronto Summer Music Festival took place yesterday at Walter Hall. The song portion, unusually, consisted of 100% English language rep, mirroring the Griffey/Jones recital earlier in the wee. The first concert kicked off with tenor Eric Laine and pianist Scott Downing with five songs from Finzi’s setting of Thomas Hardy; A Young Man’s Exhortation. It was good. Laine has a nice sense of style and very good diction. The high notes are there though sometimes, especially at the end of a line, they don’t sound 100% secure. There was some quite delicate accompaniment from Downing too.
Yesterday’s RBA concert was titled Celebrating the Invictus Games. Now the Invictus Games is a sporting competition for athletes disabled on military service. It has royal patronage and has clearly become part of the official pageantry of celebrating all things military, as witnessed by the presence of the Lieutenant Governors of Ontario and Alberta at yesterday’s concert. For me it raises all kinds of questions about why we put the military on a pedestal and how we do it and that is very tied up with the choice of rep at a concert like yesterdays. I’ll come back to that at the end of this piece, after reviewing what we actually heard.
I usually only review CDs on first release but I came across one on the weekend that I need to rave about. I guess it’s not exactly a secret that I’m a huge fan of early 20th English art song. So, when I found a CD with most of favourites sung by one of my all time favourites it was pretty much bound to be a hit. It’s a 20 year old recording by Bryn Terfel and Martin Martineau and it’s called The Vagabond and other songs. The disc includes Vaughan Williams Songs of Travel, Finzi’s Let Us Garlands Bring, both of Butterworth’s Housman cycles and three settings of John Masefield texts by John Ireland. The young Bryn’s voice is a touch lighter than today but it’s still a brooding dark thing though with delicacy enough for, say, Is my team ploughing? Martineau is a most skilled accompanist and the recording, made in Henry Wood Hall, is very good indeed. I can see this getting played a lot!
I was at a bit of a loose end yesterday so I made a very last minute decision to catch countertenor Daniel Cabena and pianist Stephen Runge in recital in the Great Hall at Hart House. It was a free concert and I hadn’t seen a program listing so I was pleasantly surprised to find a rather varied mix of early 20th century Canadian and English art song as well as piano pieces by York Bowen. I guess I was expecting baroque and earlier material since that’s what countertenors do!
Ever since they were first published the poems that make up AE Housman’s A Shropshire Lad have exerted a fascination over English composers. Today in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre we heard two first year members of the Ensemble Studio give performances of two settings that take quite different approaches to the texts.
October is the month things usually really get going again in Toronto and this year is no exception. The calendar for the first third of the month is very busy. Highlights include three free concerts in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, the opening of two productions at the Canadian Opera Company and Nuit Blanche events at the Canadian Music Centre and the UoT Music Department.
Last night at Walter Hall, as part of the Toronto Summer Music Festival, Chris Maltman and Graham Johnson gave a recital that explored the experience of war through song. It was a long and varied programme with twenty two songs in four languages commemorating most of the great empires that went to war in 1914 though many of the songs were from earlier periods. At the core of the programme were early 20th century settings of English pastoral poems. Butterworth’s settings of Houseman were there but, sneakily, we got Somervell’s much less well known setting of Think no more lad. In a similar vein there were Gurney and Finzi. The Americas were represented in a characteristically rambunctious Ives setting of a horribly jingoistic McCrae poem; He is there. McCrae may be the only well known war poet who managed to survive until 1918 without developing any sense of irony. Beyond the English speaking world there were songs by Mussorgsky, Mahler, Fauré, Schumann, Wolf and Poulenc.