Does creativity follow an arc with age? Is a period of peak creativity followed by inevitable decline or is there, perhaps, a qualitatively different, kind of creativity in the later years of life? Linda and Michael Hutcheon; literary scholar and physician, explored this in their book Four Last Songs, which looked at the later works of Verdi, Strauss, Messiaen, and Britten. Last night they appeared in the Confluence Concerts Salon series to provide further thoughts with reference to the works of Messiaen and Leonard Cohen. Their thoughts were interwoven with performances of works by Messiaen and Cohen performed by Robert Kortgaard, Patricia O’Callaghan and Larry Beckwith. There’s no need to read my description of the show. It’s freely available on Youtube.
Last night Confluence Concerts streamed their latest offering; a tribute to Henry Purcell, preceded by a pre-show interview between Larry Beckwith and Andrew Parrott. There was beautifully played instrumental music from Victoria Baroque, songs from Lawrence Williford and Lucas Harris recorded at the Elora Festival and a couple of interesting takes on If Music Be the Food of Love plus Two Daughters of this Aged Stream featuring Daniel Taylor, Rebecca Genge and Sinéad White plus instrumentalists from the UoT Faculty of Music Historical Performance Department. I was less taken with Duo Serenissima (Elizabeth Hetherington, soprano and David Mackor, theorbo). I can’t tell whether it was the recording acoustic or a diction issue but the words were pretty much unintelligible which is a big problem with Purcell!.
Last night’s virtual salon by Confluence; Let’s Stay Together, featured an extremely, if unsurprisingly, eclectic selection of music and poetry and some serious techno-wizardry. Two numbers featuring Suba Shankaran and her technical whizz husband Dylan Bell exemplified the techy side. Come Together was an overdubbed. live looped, east meets west version of the Lennon and McCartney number in which the pair built up layers of sound incrementally. Meditation Round, which rounded out the evening, was a moving new work by Suba dealing with how we need to move forward, not back, as life, perhaps, returns to some sort of normality. There was an almost 16th century quality to the music and the performance in which pretty much everyone took part remotely. Brilliant mixing and post production here backing up an extremely affecting work.
Yesterday I saw the culmination of the project that I had seen in rehearsal earlier in the week. The Ukrainian Art Song Project Summer Intensive presented 21 songs in a linked narrative about losing and regaining inspiration. It was staged in the round in the Temerty Theatre with the piano in the middle of the room and the action taking place all over. Pavlo Hunka directed. Albert Krywolt and Robert Kortgaard shared piano duties and there were eight young singers from Canada, the US and Ukraine.
Yesterday afternoon I attended the latest concert in the extremely well curated Mazzoleni Songmasters series at the Royal Conservatory of Music. This one featured soprano Joyce El Khoury and mezzo Beste Kalender in a program of French songs influenced by orientalism with some genuine Lebanese and Turkish songs thrown in for fun. Rachel Andrist and Robert Kortgaard were at the piano and, besides accompanying, gave us a couple of short pieces for four hands.
And that wasn’t just the weather that went from balmy to barmy round about verse five of Fauré’s Dans le forêt de Septembre as a cold front hit Mazzoleni Hall with, literally, a bang. Meanwhile the sheltered audience was being treated to a skilfully curated program of art song on the theme of the four seasons sung by Erin Wall and Asitha Tennekoon with Rachel Andrist and Robert Kortgaard at the piano. There were French chansons, German lieder and English songs with a decent injection of CanCon, with Derek Holman, John Greer, Jean Coulthard and Matthew Emery all represented.
Yesterday afternoon’s Mazzoleni Songmasters concert featured local tenor Andrew Haji and Welsh baritone Jason Howard in a program somewhat loosely linked to England. Neither singer was, I think, 100% well (Haji’s cold was announced, Howrad’s merely obvious!) but both battled through manfully and gave us some fine singing. There were some interesting contrasts especially in the first half of the program. Andrew kicked off with Francesco Santoliquido’s I canti della sera. I’m no expert on Italian art song but these did sound like songs rather than opera arias, at least in the hands of Andrew and Rachel Andrist. In contrast, Jason’s set (Tosti’s L’ultima canzone, Respighi’s Nebbie, Tosti’s L’ideale and Verdi’s In solitaria stanza), with Robert Kortgaard sounded distinctly operatic and suited Jason’s darkish voice rather well.
The first concert in this season’s Mazzoleni Songmasters series featured sopranos Nathalie Paulin and Monica Whicher with pianists Peter Tiefenbach and Robert Kortgaard in an eclectic program of English and fFrench songs on the theme of coming and going. First up was a set of Purcell songs which is always going to score brownie points with me. I’ve never heard Sound the Trumpet or Be Welcome, Then, Great Sir sung by female voices so that was interesting. The duet was really nice and Nathalie sang quite beautifully in the welcome ode. Monica followed up with fine versions of Dear Pretty Youth and An Evening Hymn. Continue reading →
The Mazzoleni Songmasters series opens this afternoon at 2pm in, surprise, Mazzoleni Hall at the conservatory. Nathalie Paulin and Monica Whicher present Welcome and Adieu; a program of English and French songs and duets. Collaborative pianists are Robert Kortgaard and Peter Tiefenbach.
Tuesday at noon in the RBA sees the students of UoT Opera present an all Mozart program. It’s semi staged and the program is duets and ensemble numbers so not your usual fare. Free of course but probably one one will need to arrive early for.
Norma and Ariodante continue at the COC as does Dido and Aeneas at Opera Atelier.
The last Songmasters concert of the season featured a selection of works that sorta kinda had a Finnish or Hungarian connection. The first part of the prgram featured songs by Sibelius, all but one to Swedish texts, and piano pieces by Selim Palmgren, whose music sounds like a sort of cross between Debussy and Sibelius. The songs were sung Stephen Hegedus with plenty of power and quite a bit of subtlety. We had been told he was quite ill but one wouldn’t have known it. Fine, delicate work at the piano by Robert Kortgaard. Continue reading →