Having been tipped off that yesterday’s RBA noon concert was to be a vocal recital rather than, as previously billed, a chamber concert I made the trip through the snow to catch it. Three of the Royal Conservatory’s Rebanks fellows were singing with Helen Becqué at the piano and assorted staff and alumni added for the final number. Attendance was a bit sparse perhaps unsurprisingly given the weather and the evident confusion. That was a shame because it was an interesting, varied and well presented concert combining well known works with some much less well known fare.
It kicked off with sopranos Ellen McAteer and Adanya Dunn singing three of the Mendelssohn duets Op. 63. This is light lieder territory but it was interesting and fun to hear two rather different lyric sopranos blending rather nicely. This was followed by baritone Bradley Christensen with three very well known Schubert pieces; Die Forelle, Der Lindenbaum (from Winterreise) and Der Musensohn. This was pretty good lieder singing. Die Forelle was sung with surprising but not unpleasing dark colours which contrasted with a much brighter sound in the second number and a very sprightly account of Der Musensohn.
Adanya then performed three Liszt songs to texts by Heine; Ihr Glocken von Marling, Im Rhein, in schonen Strome and Die Loreley. This was High Romanticism indeed. The first and second numbers have a kind of limpid beauty that Adanya made the most of. The third is much more dramatic, especially, in the piano part but also has some reflective passages. It’s very much story telling and, again, it was nicely done.
Ellen offered up three se;ections from the Canteloube Chants d’Auvergne; L’aio de rotso, Baïlèro and Lou coucut. I think it’s quite bold to offer up such well known fare, especially when it’s so often been used by very famous sopranos to show off the sheer beauty of their voices. Frankly Ellen didn’t disappoint in that department with a haunting Baïlèro and then she cut loose with an unrestrained and very effective Lou coucut. It was at this point that I realised how much I was enjoying watching Helen Becqué. She’s a terrific pianist and a sympathetic accompanist but she’s also super animated; both facial expressions and body movement.
The final number was Bradley performing Barber’s haunting setting of Matthew Arnold’s sombre Dover Beach. For this he was joined by Emily Kruspe and Barry Shiffman (violins), Keith Hamm (viola) and Rachel Desoer (cello). This was classy. High class string playing coupled with great attention to text. There’s so much in the words and music in this piece. It needs a restrained, text first, approach and it got it. Not perhaps the most cheerful note on which to head back into the snow but a fine conclusion to a well thought out programme.
Photo credits: Kevin Lloyd