Today’s RBA recital was Allyson McHardy and Rachel Andrist in a program called Women on the Edge. What we got was a sampler from what will eventually be a longer show. First up was Schumann’s Poèmes de Marie, Reine des Écossais. It’s a very late Schumann work and, I think, one of his best vocal works. But there’s some history here. Schumann set German translations of five poems by Mary in French plus a Latin prayer Mary’s Latin is very classically elegant). The original French was subsequently rearrranged by Bernard Diamant for Maureen Forrester and that’s the version Allyson sang today. But wait, there’s a snag. The second piece Après la naissance de son fils is a bit of an anomaly. There is no French text by Mary Stuart or anyone else. The text is Scots and probably not by Mary at all. Some sources suggest it was actually graffiti in Edinburgh castle. How/why did Diamant render it into French? Who knows. Scholarly quibbling aside these are really gorgeous works and beautifully suited to Allyson’s voice. She has a really beautiful voice and it seems to be gravitating to contralto territory as she (tries desperately to find appropriately not ungallant phrase). Anyhow it was very fine.
The second piece up was Zemlinsky’s 6 Songs after Poems by Maeterlinck. Despite the MC’s best efforts to frighten the audience with references to Schoenberg, Berg and Webern, these are classic Zemlinsky in high post-Romantic form. Sure, there are a few accidentals in the piano line but serialism this is not! There might have been a hint of Weill in there though. The texts of course are weird but Maeterlinck… Again lovely performances.
The ladies closed out with Cole Porter’s What is this Thing Called Love and the Gershwin’s surprisingly racy The Lorelei. Now I’ve always seen Ms. McHardy as the sort of girl where butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. Now I’m really not so sure…
I really want to see the longer show.
Photocredit: Karen Reeves