Yesterday at noon Ileana Montalbetti, currently appearing in the COC’s Götterdämmerung and pianist Rachel Andrist gave a recital in the RBA. It was five years to the day since they last performed together in that space. Then she was a promising young singer, now she comes over as a considerable interpretative artist. The voice is even bigger (and for a piano recital in the small and not very friendly to dramatic sopranos RBA(*) that was a bit of a challenge) but what’s notable is how much more drama and meaning there is in each number.
Today’s noon recitalists in the RBA were Andrew Haji and Liz Upchurch. We had been promised Britten’s Serenade but an absence of non-knackered horn players due to the COC’s Götterdämmerung run scuppered that and instead we got a very varied program of songs and arias on the theme of love and its travails. Four Brahms songs kicked things off and produced some very fine lieder singing. Beautiful throughout with fine phrasing, characterisation and diction there was more. The final “wonnewoll” of Wie bist du, meine Königin was a thing of floaty beauty and there was a real sense of ecstasy in Mein Liebe ist grün.
Phillip Addis, currently one of two Papagenos at the COC, together with pianist Emily Hamper, gave yesterday’s lunchtime recital in the RBA. First up were Ravel’s settings of Jules Rénard’s Histoires Naturelles. These are quirky, fun pieces with sometimes quite complex, impressionistic piano lines. They seemed well suited to Addis’ full, characterful baritone and his obvious zest for comedy. The text twists and turns both linguistically and as narrative calling for acute timing in places, which Addis delivered.
The second set was Waypoints; four songs by Erik Ross to texts by Zachariah Wells (both of whom were present). The first piece, Broken was being given for the first time. The texts are interesting and bear rereading. The settings, often repeating phrases over an over, I found a bit uneven. They are essentially conventional and tonal ranging from the rather fierce setting of the second song, I, to almost Broadwayish in the final number, Waypoints. They are pleasant enough pieces and they got a sympathetic treatment from Addis and Hamper but I’ve heard a lot more interesting Canadian art song.
The performance finished up with an arrangement by Hamper of the lullabye, The Rainbow Connection. Again pleasant but not very substantial. Which, I suppose, was my overall reaction to the concert.
Photo credit: Chris Hutcheson.
The COC Orchestra Academy program is a mentorship scheme for young orchestral musicians providing a bridge between student and professional life somewhat akin to the Ensemble Studio for singers and pianists. Today at noon in the RBA we gort the chance to see the current crop in action in all baroque program featuring Jacqueline Woodley as soprano soloist.
Croatian bass Goran Jurić is currently making his North American debut as Sarastro in the COC’s Magic Flute. Today he gave a lunchtime recital with Anne Larlee in the RBA. It was an all Russian programme; Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Sviridov. I don’t want to do a blow by blow review because I don’t know the rep well enough and it seems a bit pointless. Instead let’s talk about Jurić as an artist, as shown by his performance here (and not surprisingly as Sarastro). He’s a genuine bass, no messing. The low notes are all there and the timbre is rich and dark when he wants it to be. But he’s also extremely lyrical. He can lighten up without ever stopping sounding like a bass. It’s a most pleasant combination. He’s also a terrific storyteller. This seems like an odd thing to say about a recital where not a word was spoken and all the songs were in a language I scarcely understand at all, yet I felt he was communicating the essence of the text with great clarity as a good lieder singer must. Anne was great as an accompanist too. There was quite a lot of range in the piano parts from quite delicate and playful in some of the Sviridov to cranking the pedals up to 11 in some of the Rachmaninov. A very good way to spend one’s lunch break.
Besides, it was great to see Anne Larlee back at the Four Seasons Centre and to discover a young bass who I want to hear a lot more of. Fortunately he’s back next season as Osmin in Entführung.
Photo credit: Karen E. Reeves
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.
Yesterday’s free concert in the RBA featured mezzo Marion Newman with pianist Adam Sherkin and violinist Kathleen Kajioka in a programme of contemporary Canadian works (all the composers were in the room!) mostly connected in some way with Canada’s First Nations and Inuit peoples. First up was Ian Cusson’s setting of E. Pauline Johnson‘s A Cry from an Indian Wife. It’s a long, highly emotional but not, I think, especially well crafted, text about an Indian woman sending her husband off to war (the language reflects the usage of its day) and the words are not easy to set or sing. Cusson’s setting is appropriately intense with a blistering piano part and a tough vocal line. It’s deeply affecting but hardly comfortable especially when sung in a manner that clearly (and rightly) privileged text and emotion over beauty of sound.