Archive for the ‘Recitals’ Category

An afternoon at the Glen Gould Studio

January 28, 2013

This cloudy, dry and gloomy Sunday afternoon in Toronto, 27 January 2013, was just the right day for a little recital at the Glen Gould Studio, a cozy venue of ideal proportions for a soloist and a piano. The concert was prefaced with the insightful historical and biographical details from the lives of the composers presented by Ms. Julia Zarankin (PhD in Comparative Literature) about the friendships between Mozart and Haydn, Schumann and Brahms, and Wolf and Mahler.
Most of the programme was songs on German poetry both literary and folk. It also included two famous arias from Mozart’s operas: “Deh’ vieni alla finestra” from “Don Giovanni” and “Smanie implacabili” from “Cosi fan tutte “. Baritone Russell Braun and mezzo soprano Erica Iris Huang were followed by pianists, Ms. Elina Kelebeev and Ms. Carolyn Maule.
It was a good day for Mr. Russell Braun, who effortlessly transformed the verses by his impeccable rendition and refined phrasing into a vivid gliding journey through a series of different emotions. A little more affection in Deh” vieni alla finestra would not harm, though. Ms. Erica Iris Huang has a powerful voice with still undiscovered potentials for breadth and refinement. It became more transparent in her rendition of “Smanie implacabili”, where her expressiveness has not yet explored all the potentials of this aria. The overall impression was that that both singers enjoyed the afternoon, as we in the audience did too.
My friend and I agreed that the most rewarding piece came from the pianist duo, co-founders and artistic directors of Off Centre Music Salon and spouses of one another, Ms. Ina Perkis and Mr. Boris Zarankin. They were playing Brahms’ own piano four-hand arrangement Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15 (1858) with zesty surrender. Warm and enthusiastic applause followed.
The modest but comprehensive programme brochure offered the complete text of the poems in the German original and English translation, and refreshingly–commercial free. Thanks to the generous patrons of this performance Ms. Katalin Schafer and Mr. Roger Moore, it was an afternoon worth attending at the Glen Gould Studio.
The next concert will be on April 28, 2013, celebrating philanthropists in music.

Glen Gould Studio, Toronto

Glen Gould Studio, Toronto

Angela Gheorghiu in Toronto

April 10, 2011

Angela Gheorghiu

On Thursday, April 7, 2011, Angela Gheorghiu gave her solo concert in Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto accompanied by the Canadian Opera Company orchestra, Mr. Steven White conducting. In the cold vastness of this hall, without the support of amplifying equipment, the human voice becomes absorbed to some extent. Yesterday was no exception. All of us who could not get seats within the first 15-ish rows experienced that loss. On the other hand, I have also never heard such long and enthusiastic applause in Toronto.

Angela Gheorghiu has proven to be the greatest soprano singer of today. Her singing is an adventure in storytelling. It is not about the number of octaves in her voice range or the size of her lungs. It is about the seamless, gliding quality which ties together the whole universe of human emotions. Her high pitch is effortless and the tears in her voice are the essence of sorrow. Her deep back-throat notes never dissolved into speech. The beauty of human singing has a cathartic and purifying quality of truth. In the case of Angela Gheorghiu it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Ben Heppner in Recital

September 11, 2010

The afternoon of this 9/11, 2010, was a treat for those who praise the human voice above all. A world-renowned tenor, Mr. Ben Heppner, a Canadian, native of British Columbia, held a romantic afternoon at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. At the age of 54 his calendar is densely filled with engagements on the venerable operatic stages of the world with the most demanding roles. The repertoire for today was, oddly enough, love songs of, even more oddly, Edward Grieg, Jan Sibelius and not so oddly, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky from the texts of light, mostly love poetry provided in a somewhat coarse translation:

“I don’t know how it happened,

But for a long time, I have been kissing her.

I do not ask, she does not say yes,

But neither does she ever say no.

When lips gladly rest on lips,

We do not prevent it, it seems good to us.”

This reads more like a court transcript of the defense of a non native English speaker against sexual harassment charges lacking in probable cause.

For a Heldentenor famous for his interpretations of Wagner, a lyrical program may be considered as an adventure into different territory. As long as sentiments are shaped within a sub-polar circle, heroic character prevails over southern passionate histrionics,  a Heldentenor is still within its caliber. Indeed, Mr. Heppner gave us a direct experience of splendour and gliding capable of slalom up and down the scale of glow, depth, width, and clarity. His voice filled with ease the intimidating capacity of the Four Seasons Centre.    

At the beginning of the second part of the program, Mr. Heppner warned us about his difficulties with the Russian language, giving it a spirited name “his own Soviet block”. Although the remark was humorous, it was not advisable to speak of trouble in the middle of the recital. Artists of the stage have their own legendary superstitions and  corresponding charms. Saying “break a leg” and not naming  Macbeth are well known. I am not aware of similar charms or counter-charms in opera, but there is something very popular of which various spiritual connoisseurs talk, calling it “the law of attraction”. In other words, if you speak of trouble you are inviting trouble. So, as if on cue, a troublesome note crept in here and there, probably due to a speck of dust in the singer’s throat on inhalation, which may do a great deal of injustice to a most laudable singer.

Russian songs, although geographically not far from the territory of the cold polar climate, carry an emotionally dark edge, a zesty sob, germane to the Slavic sentiment which may not feel quite at home for Mr. Heppner at this point in his career.

In the part of the recital announced from the stage we heard a difficult French aria rendered with the precision, steadiness and confidence we hear only from the world’s top singers. Siegmund’s Winterstorm from the Valkyrie was a treat for me and at the end there was an Italian romantic song which I would readily have traded for another slice of Wagner, and leave serenades, especially Italian ones, forever to the Swedish Eskimo Peter Mattei to sing.

Mr. John Hess on piano provided a gentle but subtle and sophisticated support. Mr. Hess is introduced in the program as an expert on contemporary opera and song in Canada and has a dynamic, educational and performing career.

A few Serbians in the audience took pride in hearing Mr. Heppner informing us of the Ðoković’s victory over Federer at the US Open.

This recital was a perfect way to introduce the opening of a new season in Toronto.

The night of mighty voices at Roy Thomson Hall

March 23, 2010

Saturday March 20, 2010 was an extraordinary evening at the Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto. We were listening to Dmitri Hvorostovsky, baritone, and Sondra Radvanovsky, soprano, promoting their Verdi CD at the onset of their North American tour. The two stars, at the zenith of their singing careers, came supported by the young Canadian the Orchestre de la Francophonie and their founding conductor Jean-Phelippe Tremblay. Joining this Russian-Canadian musical force was Mr. Constantine Orbelian, an American conductor, famous for developing Russian-American musical ties since the times preceding the fall of the Iron Curtain. 

The programme included Verdi, Puccini, Dvorak, Mascagni and Tchaikovsky. The chosen fragments, whether solo or duets, required emotional presence and high concentration for the utmost in delivery, so it does not come as a surprise that at the onset there was a sense of nervousness. After all, it is difficult for a singer to jump into the climax of a drama right out of the dressing room, as opposed to developing the role gradually as the piece unfolds,  But as soon as the ice was broken, the audience had an opportunity to enjoy the plush and mighty depth of Mr. Hvorostovsky’s voice, which filled the demanding space of Roy Thomson Hall. Ms. Radvanovsky’s debut on the Toronto scene was a joy and a surprise for the audience. She is a singer with remarkable power in her voice. Her high pitch comes out with noticeable ease and control. It is when she has to sink in lower voice, or rise from low to the high that on occasion the expected richness and depth is not always felt. Therefore, some phrases felt a little chopped, especially in her rendition of Rusalka. In an interview with Opera Chic blog Ms. Radvanovsky mentioned that she is a devoted admirer of Maria Callas. When Ms. Callas was singing we could hear not only the flames of her high voice, but also with equal colour and intensity, the path her voice was taking up to these heights and the way down to the lower voice. Ms Callas could hold her voice at any point of this spiral vocal staircase and continue in any direction. Ms. Radvanovsky strides to the high from the low, and vice versa, and the lack of this vocal connection may be her major flaw. But it would be unreasonable to measure every soprano to Maria Callas and look for flaws.

The formal part of the programme ended with the final duet from Eugene Onegin during which the orchestra under Mr. Orbelian was in slower tempo. Fortunately the singers were not distracted and this lack of synchronicity was ironed out by the well-pronounced and passionate singing from both of them.

The young and promising Jean-Philippe Tremblay conducted the orchestra with enthusiasm and energy resulting in an equally powerful, coherent and convincing sound. The programme brochure introduced Mr. Tremblay as a 31-year-old conductor and violist. We will follow his undoubtedly glorious career with great interest and hope to hear him in our city again soon.