Deutsche Grammophon has just re-released the recital by Bryn Terfel and Llyr Williams that was recorded live at the Verbier Festival in 2011. It’s a generous package. It kicks off with a couple of exquisitely sung Schubert songs which are followed by Schumann’s Liederkreis Op.39. This is gorgeous lieder singing with the voice sounding very fresh, the diction spot on and lovely accompaniment.
After the interval there’s Ibert’s Chansons de Don Quichotte and Quilter’s Three Shakespeare Songs. These too are beautifully done. Then it’s on to the lighter stuff that Bryn always seems to throw in on these occasions and which does help making listening to the recording seem more like being at a live concert. Among other things there’s a lovely Ar Hyd y Nos and The Green Eyed Dragon. You have to admire a singer who can manage four languages with such clarity and feeling and still be personable and funny.
Almost six years to the day since his last appearance Bryn, now Sir Bryn, Terfel made it back to Koerner hall for a much anticipated recital; this time accompanied by Annabel Thwaite. The first set, partly setting up a Shakespeare theme for the evening, consisted of four songs by Schubert including “Trinklied” and “An Silvia”. It was followed by three of the the Quilter Shakespeare settings; “Come Away, Come Away, Death”, “O Mistress Mine” and “Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind”. The first half concluded with the Vier ernste Gesänge of Brahms. I think it’s fair to say that what we were hearing was not the Bryn that his considerable following in the hall expected. The artistry of interpretation was still there but something was up with the voice. It didn’t have the bloom I remembered and in places, especially with high notes, it just wasn’t happening. Was he a bit under the weather or was it the toll of the years and lots of Wagner? I don’t know but I really hope it was the former.
Yesterday saw the 1000th concert in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre (*) since the house opened in 2006. Fittingly it was given by Susan Bullock who sang Brünnhilde in the Canadian premier of the Ring Cycle that christened the new theatre. She was accompanied by Liz Upchurch who has also been around since before the new house existed.
Layla Claire is one of a handful of young Canadian singers making something of a splash on both sides of the Atlantic with major roles in Glyndebourne, Zürich, Toronto and Salzburg and an upcoming Pamina at the Met. Her debut recital CD Songbird, with pianist Marie-Eve Scarfone, was recently issued on the ATMA Classique label. It’s an interesting and varied collection of songs though never straying very far from familiar recital territory. It’s tilted towards French (Gounod, Chausson, Debussy, Fauré, Bizet) and German (Wolf, Strauss, Brahms, Liszt) repertoire but there’s also Quilter, Barber, Argento and Britten (the comparatively rare Seascape which is, oddly, omitted from the CD liner).
So the Toronto Summer Music Festival continued last night with a Shakespeare themed show called A Shakespeare Serenade. Curated and directed by Patrick Hansen of McGill it fell into two parts. Before the interval we got Shakespeare scenes acted out and then the equivalent scene from an operatic adaptation of the play. After the interval it was a mix of Sonnets and song settings in an overall staging that was perhaps riffing off The Decameron. Patrick Hansen and Michael Shannon alternated at the piano.
On a bright, sunny winter’s day there are few more inviting places to be than the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre positively glowing in the sunlight. When one’s reason for being there is a recital by Jane Archibald with the redoubtable Liz Upchurch at the piano one feels doubly blessed. It was one of the best performances of the many I have attended in that space. Continue reading →
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!
Julie Makerov and Anne Larlee in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre
For the Valentine’s Day lunchtime concert at the Four Seasons Centre American dramatic soprano Julie Makerov chose a series of art songs by English and American composers on various aspects of love. I was familiar with the English works by Quilter and Britten, though more used to hear them sung by male singers, and not at all familiar with the American works by Berger, Barber and Heggie. It made for an interesting mix.
A dramatic soprano wouldn’t normally be my first choice for a song recital but Ms. Makerov is very skilled. She scaled her voice back nicely and had her vibrato well under control. She also had excellent diction and a good feel for the text. She didn’t have the most interesting range of tone colour I’ve ever heard but it was a most musical and enjoyable performance. She performed the whole set from memory which is nice. The highlights for me included a couple of Quilter settings; Weep You No More Sad Fountains and The Faithless Shepherdess, and a really moving account of Britten’s setting of O, Waly, Waly. I also really liked the three songs by Berger; In Time of Silver Rain, Heart and Carolina Cabin. In case we thought the whole thing too serious she encored with an appropriately over the top rendering of Heggie’s Alas, Alack.
Anne Larlee, on piano, once again showed what a fine accompanist she is and there was a very good cameo for cellist Paul Widner in Heggie’s What My Lips Have Kissed.
It was well worth braving the driving sleet of a truly dreich Toronto day.