Layla Claire is one of a handful of young Canadian singers making something of a splash on both sides of the Atlantic with major roles in Glyndebourne, Zürich, Toronto and Salzburg and an upcoming Pamina at the Met. Her debut recital CD Songbird, with pianist Marie-Eve Scarfone, was recently issued on the ATMA Classique label. It’s an interesting and varied collection of songs though never straying very far from familiar recital territory. It’s tilted towards French (Gounod, Chausson, Debussy, Fauré, Bizet) and German (Wolf, Strauss, Brahms, Liszt) repertoire but there’s also Quilter, Barber, Argento and Britten (the comparatively rare Seascape which is, oddly, omitted from the CD liner).
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.
The Academy Program is an important part of the Toronto Summer Music Festival. It allows selected young artists; singers, collaborative pianists and chamber/orchestral musicians, to work with experienced professionals in an intensive series of coachings, masterclasses etc culminating in a concert series. This year the mentors for the vocal/collaborative piano component were pianist Craig Rutenberg, who has worked everywhere and with everybody, and mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke; a last minute replacement for an indisposed Anne Schwannewilms. I didn’t make it to any of the masterclasses, though word on the street is that they were exceptional, but I did make it to yesterday’s lunchtime concert in Walter Hall.
The last Songmasters concert of the season featured a selection of works that sorta kinda had a Finnish or Hungarian connection. The first part of the prgram featured songs by Sibelius, all but one to Swedish texts, and piano pieces by Selim Palmgren, whose music sounds like a sort of cross between Debussy and Sibelius. The songs were sung Stephen Hegedus with plenty of power and quite a bit of subtlety. We had been told he was quite ill but one wouldn’t have known it. Fine, delicate work at the piano by Robert Kortgaard. Continue reading
Yesterday’s lunchtime concert in the RBA featured two members of the Ensemble Studio. Andrew Haji, standing in for an indisposed Charles Sy, and Jennifer Szeto performed Liszt’s Tre Sonetti di Petrarca. These songs were unfamiliar to me and came as a pleasant surprise. They are very Italianate and very operatic and have a pretty involved piano part (unsurprisingly). Haji displayed his uncanny ability to find exactly the right idiom for the music and sang with beauty and expression as well as nailing the three high D flats. Szeto was a most accomplished accompanist. Great dress too! New Yorkers can catch these two in the Marilyn Horne Song Celebration at Carnegie Hall on Saturday where they will perform the same music.