A Play of Passion

playofpassionThis review first appeared in the print edition of Opera Canada.

The latest CD release from the Canadian Art Song Project features four works by Derek Holman. Three song cycles are performed by tenor Colin Ainsworth with Stephen Ralls at the piano. This team presented all three works in a very fine concert at the Four Seasons Centre in October 2014. For the CD Ralls is joined by Bruce Ubukata for the piano duet, Variations on a Melody by Dr. Arne.

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A Play of Passion

Colin_Ainsworth_Headshot2Tenor Colin Ainsworth and pianist Stephen Ralls today presented three song cycles written for them by Derek Holman.  The first, The Death of Orpheus (2004) sets two translations of Ovid by Arthur Golding; on the subject of Orpheus in the underworld sandwiching Shakespeare’s Sonnet XVIII.  The parts form an interesting contrast.  In the Ovid, Golding chose to write in rhyming iambic heptameters but Holman’s setting completely ignores that, breaking and reshaping the lines very freely.  The piano line too is spare and more a commentary on the vocal line than a support.  In contrast the Shakespeare is set much more “faithfully”; piano and vocal line both reflecting more closely the metre of the verse.  Holman also rarely repeats a phrase of the text) it happens maybe five times in the eleven songs in today’s programme) which puts quite a burden on the listener given the allusive complexity of Ovid/Golding’s verse. Continue reading