That which had to be done is done. What follows is a write up from my notes of Sunday’s art song final. Please bear in mind that I was less than fully emotionally engaged and you may well prefer Gianmarco Segato’s thoughtful review.
Julien van Mellaerts sang first. He started off in conventional territory with Strauss, Schumann and Wolf; showing good command of the Lieder style, expressiveness and a willingness to vary dynamics. A pleasing version of Adams’ For You There is No Song was followed by the weird and somewhat chilling Genius Child by Owens; a neat contrast. The set concluded with Debussy’s Trois ballades de François Villon. There was some lovely, delicate singing here with some ravishing floating notes. Overall, as in the previous rounds, very good stuff without, perhaps, having the X factor.
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…