Schön

Today we said goodbye to Charles Sy and Hyejin Kwon as members of the Ensemble Studio.  They went out on a high note (indeed quite a few high notes….) with a very fine performance of Schubert’s epic cycle Die schöne Müllerin.  Charles was in fine voice for the whole 65 minutes or so.  He was delicate and floaty where he needed to be and fierce when warranted.  It was lovely and text sensitive and proof, if anyone still needed it, of what a fine singer he has become in the last couple of years.  Hyejin was equally accomplished.  The limpid delicacy of the intro to Wohin was just gorgeous but she also summoned up real power and volume when needed.  She was, as always, tremendous fun to watch.  We writers tend to focus on the singer and not give due weight to the pianist’s contribution.  Today we were reminded of how wrong that is.

schone

I hope both of them stick around the Toronto scene and I look forward to seeing them in future endeavours.  Thanks guys!

Photo credit: Tanner Davies

RBA Bach

Not a relation of JS, CPE or PDQ but the venue for today’s lunchtime presentation of two JS Bach cantatas by mezzo Lauren Eberwein and organist Hyejin Kwon with violinists Liz Johnston and Rezan Onen-Lapointe, violist Keith Hamm, cellist Paul Widner, bassist Robert Speer and oboeist Mark Rogers.  The two pieces were Ich habe genug, BWV 82 and Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust BWV 170; both works about the approach of death and the soul’s yearning for rest and salvation.

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Transformations

Aaron Sheppard - May 10 - Kevin Lloyd - resizedYesterday’s lunchtime recital in the RBA featured three current members of the COC Ensemble Studio.  First up was tenor Aaron Sheppard making his adieux with Finzi’s A Young Man’s Exhortation; a setting of texts by Thomas Hardy.  It’s an interesting cycle; quite spare with, despite its lack of density, an intricate piano part that reveals some interesting chromaticism.  The vocal line calls for great delicacy and control with occasionally injections of power.  We got all that in a very fine performance by Aaron, and by Stéphane Mayer at the piano.  It was probably the best performance I’ve heard from Aaron.  He’s always had a rather beautiful, but perhaps too delicate voice.  Here the control, phrasing and emphasis was all there but so was some oomph when needed.  His performance was very true to the texts which have that same quality that Houseman exudes; Merry England with Death just peeking in from around the corner when one least expects it.  Good stuff.

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Women on the Edge

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.

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Collaborations

Yesterday’s concert in the RBA was the annual collaboration between members of the COC Ensemble Studio and members of the Atelier Lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal.  Danika Lorèn, Emily D’Angelo and Stéphane Mayer represented the COC with Baritone Geoffroy Salvas, tenor Keven Geddes, mezzo Caroline Gélinas and pianist Carol-Anne Fraser up for the visitors.  It was very much a program of “opera pops” but the quality of the performances was consistently more than decent and it made for a fun hour.

collaborations

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A Woman’s Life and Love

laureneYesterday’s lunchtime concert in the RBA featured mezzo Lauren Eberwin, soprano Danika Lorèn and pianists Hyejin Kwon and Stéphane Meyer.  Lauren and Hyejin were first up with Schumann’s Frauenliebe und -leben.  I’ve rarely seen this sung by a singer so obviously “in” the story.  There was a real sense of first person storytelling as well as rather good singing.  I thought Lauren sounded surprisingly sopranoish in the first seven numbers but they are optimistic and happy and a bright coloured voice seems apt.  She certainly darkened it nicely for the final grim song.  Hyejin was a most sympathetic partner.

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Since Then…

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.

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