Recitals at Rosedale opened the season yesterday afternoon with a program entitled A Walk on the Dark Side featuring Leslie Ann Bradley, Alysson McHardy and Geoff Sirett with Rachel Andrist and Robert Kortgaard at the piano. It was an extremely well put together program with a range of pieces on the themes of myths, legends and fairy tales.
There were solid chunks of, mostly, romantic fare starting with Geoff Sirett’s set of fairy tale songs by Finzi, Mahler and Debussy sung with most excellent diction, power and some subtlety. Leslie Ann offered up Szymanowski’s Songs of a Fairy Tale Princess. These were much the most modern pieces in the program; fiercely difficult to sing with some weird vocalise and a difficult piano part. The style varied curiously from what might have been Webern or Berg to fairly lush romanticism. All of this was admirably navigated both by the soprano and by Rachel at the piano. The main event in the second half of the program and, for me, the highlight of the afternoon, was Alysson and Rachel with Zemlinsky’s Six Songs to Poems by George Maeterlinck. These rather weird German texts about “difficult women” are set to some gorgeous music and Alysson sang them most beautifully and sensitively displaying fine control and the wonderful smoky quality of her voice. Rachel was a most sympathetic accompanist.
In between the meaty chunks there was some lighter fare including pieces for four hands played by Robert and Rachel. These included a very energetic and enjoyable Le jardin féerique by Ravel. Leslie Ann also revealed a facility for musical theatre with a cheeky rendering of Gershwin’s Lorelei which rounded out two settings of the classic Heine text; the Liszt sung by beautifully by Alysson and the, curiously, much angstier Clara Schumann version by Geoff.
The concluding segment; Songs to the Moon was almost a microcosm of the program as a whole starting off with a Heine setting by Mendelssohn and segging by way of Gounod and Heggie to Broadway. Leslie Ann again proved a capable musical theatre performer with Weill’s What good would the Moon be? before Geoff got a chance to show off his comic talents in a performance of Lane’s Old Devil Moon with Alysson, who also displayed a playful, even cheeky side I haven’t seen before. To be honest, she upstaged Geoff; no mean feat. This interplay just got broader in the final trio of Hammerstein’s Make Believe which had the audience laughing out loud.
Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.