I went to see Whitney Mather sing yesterday afternoon. It was her second masters degree performance at Walter Hall with David Eliakis at the piano. (Probably the first time I’ve heard David play a proper piano!)
It was an interesting and well chosen program that allowed Whitney to demonstrate her musicianship and sensitivity to text. For the most part it avoided overly obvious territory, starting with Purcell’s rarely heard The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation which was followed by the obligatory CanCon. In this case John Greer’s The Red Red Heart; settings of poems by Marianne Bindig. The Purcell allowed some tasteful decoration and an opportunity to display appropriately baroque style. The Greer, like so many modern songs, perhaps had more of interest in the piano line than for the voice but it did allow a brief coloratura flourish.
Next up were Respighi’s Quattro Rispetti Toscani to texts by Arturo Birga. These are rather beautiful songs and should be heard more often. Whitney brought out both the pathos and humour in the rather rustic (Tuscan dialect?) texts.
After the interval we were on more familiar ground with Schubert’s Der Hirt auf dem Felsen. Tiago Delgado played the clarinet part quite beautifully and Whitney managed the crazy pace of the piece very well, managing to maintain a clear sense of shape and line. She wrapped up with Milhaud’s Chansons de Ronsard. These are a bit of a tour de force. Some passages are really fast and much of the music lies high in the soprano range. Whitney may not have the easiest, most beautiful, high notes ever but she does have all the notes and she hit them here with accuracy and without sense of strain. She was particularly impressive in the crazy fast Tais-toi, babillarde.
All in all not a bad way to spend a late Saturday afternoon!
It’s a bit of a crazy week coming up. On Monday at 8pm there’s the first in a series of young artists concerts presented by Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu and Yamaha Canada. This one features pianist Cindy Liu in an all Prokofiev program. It’s at Rosemarie’s atelier at 310 Davenport Road and tickets are $20 ($10 student).
Tuesday is a double header with Erin Wall performing at noon in the RBA in a program of Korngold, Debussy and Duparc. Then at 5.30pm at the Canadian Music Centre there’s a CD launch concert for Sing Me at Midnight; the latest recording from CASP featuring songs by John Greer. Both these events are free.
So it’s early November and a recital titled Songs of Remembrance. One might of expected something like the program Chris Maltman presented just down Philosophers’ Walk last year but no, Monica Whicher and Rachel Andrist’s program was gentler. Dare we say “more feminine”? This concert was about remembrance of childhood and love; happy and not so happy. Framed by Roger Quilter’s settings of Blake we got two “concocted cycles” drawn from very diverse sources; English, French and German texts; art song and popular song; composers from Schubert to Richard Rogers and Hans Eisler. It was effective.
I’ve attended many very good concerts in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre but I’m not sure I’ve ever attended one as intense as Tracy Dahl and Liz Upchurch’s Songs from the Heart recital today. Tracy really is a rather extraordinary artist. She is the antithesis of the lieder singer who stands demurely by the piano and Schuberts mellifluously. She throws every fibre of her being into the performance. It’s not campily histrionic but voice, facial expression and gesture are all used to the full whether she’s hiccupping a drunken Harlequin or sibilantly suggesting a slithery singing snake.
Recitals at Rosedale is a new venture from collaborative pianists John Greer and Rachel Andrist. There will be four themed recitals, each featuring multiple singers, on Sunday afternoons at Rosedale Presbyterian Church. Last night saw a preview of excerpts from all four programs. Around 200 people showed up on a very hot and humid Saturday evening to see a pretty decent cross section of Toronto’s singing talent. The venue has a typically resonant church acoustic and tends to swallow the words a bit however carefully the singer enunciates but it’s a sensible size, holding maybe 200-300 and so avoids the problem of feeling empty even when there is actually a pretty decent crowd.
The free concert series that the COC puts on in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre often has interesting programs and frequently the performances are very good indeed. It’s also pretty good value for money. It’s not often though that the line up is as starry as today’s gig. Baritone Russell Braun was joined by his L’Amour du Loin costars Erin Wall (soprano) and Krisztina Szabó (mezzo) plus Ensemble Studio tenor Chris Enns. On the piano were COC Music Director Johannes Debus and Carolyn Maule.
They kicked off with Brahms’ Liebeslieder-Walzer. They were performed with verve and skill and quite a bit of humour but I’m afraid it was still Brahms. In my book Brahms should be loved from afar. I much preferred the selections from Schumann’s Spanische Liebeslieder which followed. I particularly liked Russell’s rendering of Flutenreicher Ebro which showed great feeling for the words and real skill in articulating different moods through voice colour. Krisztina also gave us a ravishing version of Hoch, hoch sind die Berger.
The revelation for me though was John Greer’s settings of Canadian folk songs; All Around the Circle. Looking at the words I thought this was going to be really hokey but in fact both the vocal arrangements and piano accompaniments are really pretty sophisticated and right up there with better known English and Australian folk song settings for voice and piano. The quartet gave them all they had. Lots of attack, good ensemble work and tons of humour. (One needs humour with a line like “She’ll be waiting for me there with the hambone of a bear”!). Terrific piano playing here too from Johannes and Carolyn. It was fun! (And great value for money)