The Leaderand other works is a new record of music by Karim Al-Zand. The most substantial piece is the one act chamber opera The Leader based on Ionesco’s 1955 play Le Maître. A reporter and two devoted fans follow the Leader wherever he goes mesmerised by his often absurd antics. A young couple is gradually drawn into the fascination.
The Leader does ridiculous things. he dances with a hedgehog. He has his trousers pressed in public. Finally it’s revealed that he no head. Instead he has “genius”. None of this shakes the loyalty of his followers. One imagines that Ionesco had the European dictators of the 1930s in mind but, of course, one can substitute whichever half absurd, half sinister populist neo-Fascist one chooses.
Transcendent is a CD from the Asia/America New Music Institute (AANMI). It features works by six American and Asian composers performed by Davóne Tines, Matthew Aucoin and members of the AANMI Ensemble in various combinations.
The first set is two settings of Walt Whitman by Matthew Aucoin for baritone and piano (. The poems are The Sleepers and A clear Midnight. They alternate a sparsely accompanied lyrical vocal line, beautifully sung by Tines, with much denser passages for the piano, played here by the composer. It’s interesting music and supports the text well.
The COC’s production of Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi directed by Amy Lane is now available to watch for free, for the next six months, at coc.ca/watch . It’s given a 1950s Italian setting but otherwise it’s a pretty straightforward approach reliant on good ensemble directing and acting, which it gets. It’s livened up by video projections by Alexander Gunnarsson, which come over really very well on the film.
So back to Walter Hall at 4pm for the last of the Regen concerts featuring song. This time Renee Fajardo and Jinhee Park kicked things off with a very fine set starting with Herr Schumann’s sinister Die Soldat and Frau Schumann’s Die Lorelei. This was all smoothly and elegantly sung bar a slight tendency to push high notes. There was some very impressive pianism here too. The set concluded with Schoenberg’s Galathea; a bold and interesting choice, where Renee managed to create an almost cabaret timbre without ever sacrificing accuracy. Nicely done!
The last two ReGENERATION concerts featuring song took place in Walter Hall yesterday at 1pm and 4pm. Both featured four singers doing a set with piano, a vocal piece with chamber accompaniment and a chamber piece. All the members of the Artsong Academy programme appeared at least once. First up was tenor Joey Jang with Frances Armstrong at the piano with a set of Schubert and Schumann. He sounded OK, if a bit underpowered, in Liebesbotschaft with its fairly fast rhythmic lines but technical issues showed up in the slower pieces requiring real legato.
So it was back to Walter Hall at 7.30pm for Saturday’s second instalment. This time the programme kicked off with the Schumann Piano Quartet in E flat Major Op. 47 before the singers. The first singer up was mezzo Danielle Vaillancourt with pianist Jing Lee Park. They gave us just two songs. The first was Fauré’s Il pleure dans mon coeur followed by Duparc’s Au pays où se fait la guerre. Vaillancourt has excellent French diction, a really interesting timbre and plenty of power. This was pretty fine singing. Jing Lee Park made the most of her chance to shine in the rather lovely piano part in the Duparc. Continue reading →
TSMF has made some small changes to the line up this year. Instead of the art song component recitals for the academy programme being given together as two concerts they have been spread across four concerts with the balance being made up of chamber music. The first two of the four were yesterday in Walter Hall.
There was no printed programme for the concerts. The singers announced themselves and their accompanists and their material. The last was repeated in the projected surtitles (yeah!) which also provided text and translation for the non-English items (including Scots) but not for songs to English texts. So, mad scribbling was required to get a complete listing and I may have made the odd error.
So the first four semifinalists have sung. It’s interesting. Julien van Mellaerts sang a very restrained, very Liederish set while all three girls were more dramatic. A lot is going to turn on the judges views on the “right way” to do art song. If the prelims are anything to go by I suspect they tend more to the operatic than I do. We shall see.
Julien van Mellaerts kicked off with Schubert. Der Einsame was a model of Germanic restraint but he clearly had plenty of power in reserve and let it out a bit in the more dramatic Rastlose Liebe. Mahler’s Zu Strassburg auf der Schantz was lovely and lyrical and showed real ability to shape a line. Gurney’s In Flanders showed off clean high notes plus a sense of style. His version of Butterworth’s Is my team ploughing? almost teetered into the mannered. It was lovely but a little precious à la Bostridge. Songs by Fauré and Duparc were sung stylishly to round out a set that was very much to my taste but will it please the judges?
Yesterday afternoon and evening we heard all sixteen contestants in the preliminary round of the art song competition and the eight semifinalists were announced. To try and keep things interesting I’m going to do three posts; one on the afternoon, one on the evening and one on the judging and other general observations. The first was written between the afternoon and evening sessions yesterday and I haven’t updated it with later information. The second will be based on my notes and I’ll try to ignore who the fact that at time of writing I know the results. So here’s the first post about yesterday afternoon…
A concert of contemporary works for accordion? Why not! Well it was more of a concert of contemporary works for fixed reed instruments with, ironically, Trinity St. Paul’s most impressive fixed reed instrument forming an unused but imposing backdrop to the proceedings. Things started off conventionally enough with Soundstreams’ Artistic Director Lawrence Cherney on stage with three players of different instruments describing their histories and properties and then mild Hell broke loose as a curiously clad Joseph Macerollo burst into the auditorium, ejected Lawrence and friends and launched into R. Murray Schafer’s performance piece La Testa d’Adriane; the tale of a head mystically preserved between life and death. At this point the purpose of the rather bizarre contraption on stage was unclear but soon enough the cloth was pulled back to reveal Carla Huhtanen, or her head at least. More accordion and speech from Macerollo and a bizarre collection of grunts, squeaks, shrieks and gurning from Carla followed. Madness or genius? It’s Schafer. The question is unanswerable.