Phillip Addis in the RBA

2017-01-31-fcs-addis-021Phillip 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.

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In life, in death

remembranceRemembrance is a new CD, on the Harmonia Mundi label, from the Choir of Clare College and their director Graham Ross to be released October 21st in time for poppy season.  The main event is a performance of Duruflé’s Requiem given here in the composer’s organ reduction.  It’s recorded in Lincoln Cathedral with its great Father Willis organ.  It’s a very polished performance with a fair bit of drama.  There’s some lovely singing and cello playing from mezzo Jennifer Johnston and cellist Guy Johnston in the Pie Jesu and bass Neal Davies also makes a couple of trenchant contributions.  It’s not one of the most performed requiems but definitely worth a listen. Continue reading

CASP 2016

It’s been four years since the initial Canadian Art Song Project concert in the RBA.  Since then they’ve commissioned a number of works and started a recital series that has included innovative presentations such as the performance of Brian Harman’s Sewing the Earthworm given in November.  A work premiered that night; Erik Ross’ The Living Spectacle formed the conclusion to yesterday’s concert but first came a series of works performed by students from the University of Toronto.

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The Living Spectacle

spectacle-300x286The Canadian Art Song Project branched out last night with a ticketed concert at The Extension Room.  The opening number was the latest CASP commission; The Living Spectacle by Erik Ross to words by Baudelaire translated by Roy Campbell.  Like a lot of modern song the three movements were all quite piano forward and hard on the singer.  The second text, The Evil Monk, certainly brought out the darker and more dramatic side of Ambur Braid’s voice while the third, The Death of Artists, was cruelly high even for someone with Ambur’s coloratura chops.  She coped very well and Steven Philcox’ rendering of the piano part was suitably virtuosic.

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