Singing Only Softly

Last night was the last performance at Heliconian Hall of Loose Tea Music Theatre’s double bill of Anne Frank operas.  The first half of the show centred on Grigori Frid’s monodrama for soprano and chamber ensemble (given here in piano score) The Diary of Anne Frank.   It’s a work in 21 scenes of which 15 were performed last night.  For a Soviet work of the 1970s it’s surprisingly modern in style with some interesting music for the piano.  The vocal part though is pretty unsympathetic and although Gillian Grossman managed it pretty well a lot of it lies too high for comfort or even comprehension.

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A Mexican and French afternoon

We went to a recital of French and Mexican vocal music at Heliconian Hall yeaterday.  It was given by soprano Renée Bouthot and pianist Ana Cervantes.  Far the most interesting part sof the programme were the Mexican pieces.  Federico Ibarra’s 1988 setting of Tres Canciones by Lorca was really fine.  The three pieces were quite varied.  Canción has a complex piano part, an interesting vocal line and quite playful interaction between the two.  By no means always to be found in modern art song.  Canción de Cuna has a less interesting, kind of scoopy vocal line but a really virtuoso piano part while the final Canción de la muerte pequeña blends a wildly percussive piano part with dance rhythms in the vocal line.  All three texts are really interesting too.

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Innocent revels

purcellWhat do you get when you take nine multi-talented musicians from a variety of musical backgrounds and give them a Purcell toy box to play in?  You get the latest concert in the Confluence series; ‘Tis Nature’s Voice: Henry Purcell Reimagined.  It’s an amazingly fun evening that completely blows the cobwebs off the often stuffy Toronto baroque music scene.  I can’t do a number by number account because I completely lost track.  I was having way too much fun.

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Your Daughter Fanny

220px-Frances_CluettYour Daughter Fanny is a 45 minute long chamber opera with music by Alice Ho and libretto by Lisa Moore based on letters written by WW1 Newfoundland VAD nurse Frances Cluett (which can also be found in book form).  It was performed yesterday at Heliconian Hall by soprano Caroline Schiller with Duo Concertante, Nancy Dahn (violin) and Timothy Steeves (piano).

I really liked the music.  It was the first time I’ve heard a piece by Alice Ho that didn’t include traditional Chinese elements and it was stylistically interesting; rich textured, sometimes astringent, sometimes very lyrical with a very decent, singable vocal line.

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Shuffle: Philcox and Szabó

Last night’s early evening free “shuffle” concert at Heliconian Hall featured Krisztina Szabó and Stephen Philcox.  They started out with Xavier Montsalvatge’s Cinco canciones negras; a lively collection of Spanish songs featuring scenes from Cuban life.  The songs, very much French influenced, varied in mood from quite sombre to wild and were presented with skill and wit.  The main event though was the reprise of two works that Philcox and Szabó premiered in March at Walter Hall; Miss Carr in Seven Scenes by Jeffrey Ryan and Four Short Songs by John Beckwith.  I reviewed that March performance here and really don’t see any reason to revise my opinion about the works or the performances except to note that last night, of course, Krisztina sang all the Beckwith songs.

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Intersections

The third concert in the Heliconian Hall series from Adanya Dunn, Brad Cherwin and Alice Hwang was titled Intersections and was designed to explore “the sphinx like mind of Robert Schumann” through his own music and music inspired by him.  First up was Kurtàg’s Hommage à Robert Schumann featuring Alice and Brad and guest violist Laila Zakzook.  This is a complex and difficult piece.  Some sections consist of short fragments of “conversation” between the instruments.  At other times there is a more obvious line and it varies in mood from extremely violent to almost lyrical.  It’s an interesting exploration of Schumann’s various musical personalities through a completely different sound world.

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A few additions

centurysongThere are a few things I didn’t mention in my back half of April post.  Century Song opened a couple of nights ago at Crow’s Theatre.  It’s a live performance hybrid, inspired in part by Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens, Soprano Neema Bickersteth melds classical song (music by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Oliver Messiaen, John Cage, Georges Aperghis and Reza Jacobs) and movement to inhabit a century of women whose identities are contained within a single performer.  Details here.

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