I went to Roy Thomson Hall last night to hear an all Vaughan Williams program conducted by Peter Oundjian. It’s not really my thing but there was a fine quartet of soloists lined up for the Serenade to Music.
Things got going with the Fantasia on “Greensleeves” which was perfectly OK if a bit hackneyed. There was a decent account of the Concerto for Oboe and Strings with Sarah Jeffrey as the soloist. Then there was the Serenade. For some reason the soloists were lined up with the choir (the Elmer Iseler singers) behind the orchestra. The result was sonic mush and textual porridge. I caught exactly one word of the text; “stratagems” for what it’s worth. The rest was not recognisable as English, let alone understandable. And, of course, it was too dark to read the supplied text. This despite soloists; Carla Huhtanen, Emily D’Angelo, Lawrence Wiliford and Tyler Duncan, who are consistently excellent with text. This is becoming very annoying. As often as not when I go to see the TSO do vocal works the soloists are either inaudible or incomprehensible. I know the hall is difficult but the performance of the Ryan Requiem last week showed that it is possible to showcase singers. I think it’s really unfair to audiences and singers alike. Anyway, I was so fed up that I left at the interval.
Todays concert in the UoT’s Thursdays at Noon series at Walter Hall was given by baritone Giles Tomkins, soprano Elizabeth McDonald, pianist Kathryn Tremills, clarinettist Peter Stoll and cellist Lydia Munchinsky. The music they played was sometimes in familiar combinations of players and sometimes very much not. Hence the title.
The Thursday concert at UoT yesterday was a recital by Joel Allison and Mélisande Sinsoulier, respective winners of the Norcop song prize and Koldofsky prize in accompanying. It was a very satisfying performance. Loewe’s Tom der Reimer set the tone with fine singing from Allison and quite inspired pianism from Ms. Sinsoulier. Allison displayed power and agility plus an ability to sing quite elegantly when required though perhaps he does occasionally “push” the drama a bit further than the text really needs.
I usually only review CDs on first release but I came across one on the weekend that I need to rave about. I guess it’s not exactly a secret that I’m a huge fan of early 20th English art song. So, when I found a CD with most of favourites sung by one of my all time favourites it was pretty much bound to be a hit. It’s a 20 year old recording by Bryn Terfel and Martin Martineau and it’s called The Vagabond and other songs. The disc includes Vaughan Williams Songs of Travel, Finzi’s Let Us Garlands Bring, both of Butterworth’s Housman cycles and three settings of John Masefield texts by John Ireland. The young Bryn’s voice is a touch lighter than today but it’s still a brooding dark thing though with delicacy enough for, say, Is my team ploughing? Martineau is a most skilled accompanist and the recording, made in Henry Wood Hall, is very good indeed. I can see this getting played a lot!
Baritone Quinn Kelsey, currently singing Germont père in La Traviata at the COC stepped down off the big stage today to give a recital, with Rachel Andrist at the piano, in the more intimate RBA. As befits the venue, he gave us a more intimate program. Ralph Vaughan Williams Songs of Travel and the less frequently heard Gerald Finzi cycle, Let Us Garlands Bring sandwiched three songs by Brahms.
The Vaughan Williams is a pretty well known work, almost a recital warhorse. Kelsey showed considerable sensitivity in, mostly, dialling his big voice back for it. He is extremely expressive, occasionally I thought maybe just a touch too much so, and he has a surprisingly wide range of colours at his disposal. The contrast between the light, bright tone he used for The Roadside Fire and the much darker (and louder) approach to Youth and Love was quite striking. And that’s just an arbitrary comparison of two songs that follow one another. The rest of the set was equally varied. This guy is a lot more than “just” a big, Italianate Verdi baritone! And Rachel Andrist is so much more than “just” an accompanist. She brings a complimentary personality to every song with some real detail in the piano part that makes it seem quite fresh.
The on/off saga of the Ensemble Studio’s promised Janáček’s The Diary of One Who Disappeared came to an apparent conclusion yesterday. It had been postponed at least once and even this morning the COC website is advertising a complete performance with two soloists and a small chorus.
It didn’t happen. What we got was a recital by Owen McAusland singing some excerpts from the Janáček plus Vaughan William’s The House of Life and Britten’s Les Illuminations. It was his last performance as a member of the Ensemble Studio during which time, among many other things, he sang several main stage performances as Tito covering for a sick Michael Schade.
I was at a bit of a loose end yesterday so I made a very last minute decision to catch countertenor Daniel Cabena and pianist Stephen Runge in recital in the Great Hall at Hart House. It was a free concert and I hadn’t seen a program listing so I was pleasantly surprised to find a rather varied mix of early 20th century Canadian and English art song as well as piano pieces by York Bowen. I guess I was expecting baroque and earlier material since that’s what countertenors do!