Songs of Remembrance

monicawhicherSo it’s early November and a recital titled Songs of Remembrance.  One might of expected something like the program Chris Maltman presented just down Philosophers’ Walk last year but no, Monica Whicher and Rachel Andrist’s program was gentler.  Dare we say “more feminine”?  This concert was about remembrance of childhood and love; happy and not so happy.  Framed by Roger Quilter’s settings of Blake we got two “concocted cycles” drawn from very diverse sources; English, French and German texts; art song and popular song; composers from Schubert to Richard Rogers and Hans Eisler. It was effective.

For me, the highlights typically lay in the lighter material.  Monica’s voice can be very beautiful and she is wonderfully expressive and those qualities come out best when she doesn’t have to be overly dramatic.  This was apparent from the beginning with a quite lovely account of Finzi’s setting of de la Mare’s The Birthnight and, especially, in Schubert’s Litanei auf das Fest aller Seelen.  Monica only sang three verses of this but I could happily have listened to the lot though I would probably ended up as a big puddle.  There was variety too with the bittersweet Eisler settings of Brecht texts, here sung as art song rather in the rather more aggressive cabaret style I’ve heard used for them before.  Then there was the one nod to National Militarism Month, Mahler’s Aus! Aus! sung with appropriate bounciness and fine articulation.

The second half was an intriguing mix of French 20th century material mixed with more popular English language numbers though, curiously, Poulenc’s Les Chemins de L’Amour sounded as much like a nightclub number as anything by Rogers or Schmidt.  There was also a very funny and affecting version of Fauré’s setting of Victor Hugo’s very silly Le Papillon et la Fleur.  All in all, a walk perhaps on the lighter side and non the worse for that.  It suited Monica very well.  Rachel was her usual highly accomplished self in material that for the most part didn’t ask the pianist to impose though John Greer’s setting of Marianne Bindig’s My Mother’s Hands was interesting that way, especially the stuff going on for the right hand.

This was the first concert of the season in the Songmasters Series at Mazzoleni Hall which has succeeded the Recitals at Rosedale series of previous years.  It’s a vast improvement.  The hall is a perfect size, the acoustics are excellent and the seats are, well, not as Calvinist.  It’s also more accessible and there’s a bar!.  These factors all seem to have played into an attendance that was much better than at Rosedale.  Next up in the series is Le travail du peintre featuring Brett Polegato, Mireille Asselin, Rachel Andrist and Peter Tiefenbach in a program of works inspired by paintings.  That’s on March 6th.

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