The first concert in this season’s Mazzoleni Songmasters series featured sopranos Nathalie Paulin and Monica Whicher with pianists Peter Tiefenbach and Robert Kortgaard in an eclectic program of English and fFrench songs on the theme of coming and going. First up was a set of Purcell songs which is always going to score brownie points with me. I’ve never heard Sound the Trumpet or Be Welcome, Then, Great Sir sung by female voices so that was interesting. The duet was really nice and Nathalie sang quite beautifully in the welcome ode. Monica followed up with fine versions of Dear Pretty Youth and An Evening Hymn.
The second set was a series of French, predominantly 19th century chansons by the likes of Chausson and Chaminade. As regular readers will know I’m not a fan. There were also a couple of Honegger songs and a Poulenc piano duet which sounded curiously like they were written for the music hall or cocktail lounge. Best of this lot was Délibes Les Filles de Cadix which got a pleasingly lively treatment from Nathalie.
There was a bit of a change of pace after the interval with the McGarrigles’ Talk to Me of Mendocino idiomatically sung as a duet and a fine performance of Peter Maxwell Davies’ Farewell to Stromness by Robert. This is a really interesting piece structured like pipe music with melody over a kid on pianistic drone. I liked it a lot.
Then came three traditional(1) Irish and Scots songs arranged by Elias, Britten and Kennedy-Fraser. Then, as seems to be the modern recital way, it was show tune time. There was Rogers and Legrand and Bernstein. The highlight was a thoroughly over the top and hilarious rendition of Ohio from Bernstein’s Wonderful Town. We closed out on Lauridsen’s Prayer; a setting of a really interesting text by Dana Giola, sung as a duet with Robert at the piano.
In many ways it was a very “modern” recital program with some fine singing and playing. Not at all a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Also the turn out was pretty decent for a song recital these days. Usually only the biggest of international stars draw much of a crowd.
FN1: One of the “trad” songs; At the Mid-hour of Night was correctly attributed to Thomas Moore in the texts though not the program listing. It’s odd how often his songs get labelled “trad”. Last Rose of Summer anyone?