Simon Keenlyside (baritone) & Malcolm Martineau (piano) Review
Simon Keenlyside’s acclaimed Queens Hall success in the 2010 festival did not replicate readily in the vaster Usher hall, though a large - but not capacity - audience was vociferous at the baritone’s polished performance.
Solo recitals by voice and piano are far from being the best choice for the Usher Hall despite its excellent acoustics. The quality of this attractive programme and its execution by both singer and pianist dismissed the thought that it was designed for a more intimate setting.
Keenlyside’s extensive operatic experience in the world’s major opera houses ensured that his unamplified voice reached all the audience. Some of the nuances in the more delicate items may have been lost but there was no doubting his vocal power in strenuous pieces.
It is easy to forget that in many cases the piano is as vital as the voice to the listener’s appreciation of the music. Malcolm Martineau was impeccable in his timing and modulation as an accompanist and superb in preludes, interludes and finales when the singer was silent.
The programme was weighted heavily in favour of German lieder, Keenlyside’s favourite in his student days. On Friday night, he appeared more “at home” with songs in the German language, rather than French.
Nostalgia and delicacy certainly came across in the Duparc and Debussy songs but not the emotion endemic in Mahler and Strauss or the beauty of Schubert. Mahler’s irony was neatly phrased in St Anthony’s sermon to the fishes, given on the river bank when no one turned up in church (the fish may have heard but were unaffected).
Ruckert Lieder sung by mezzo-soprano Waltraud Meier with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra on Wednesday made different impact when sung by a baritone. It was a revelation to hear “Liebst du um Schonheit” in Mahler’s original piano form, not the orchestral version of its premiere.
In his Strauss selection Keenlyside demonstrated his full vocal range and impressive power, though for many the Schubert lieder were the highlight of the evening.
Two encores, introduced by the singer telling of his fascination with moonlight over Austrian mountains and lakes, were rapturously received.
- Mahler – Ich atmet einen Linden Duft, Des Antonius von Padua Fischgericht, Ich ging mit Lust, Blick mir nicht in die Lieden, Fruhlingsmorgen, Liebst du un Schonheit, Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht;
- Duparc – Le manoir de Rosemonde, Phidyle;
- Debussy – Nuit d’etoiles, Voici que le printemps, Les angelus, Mandoline;
- Richard Strauss – Winternacht, Waldesfahrt, Das Rosenband, Befreit, Efeu, Standchen.p;
Event: August 23, 2011. It was recorded for broadcast by BBC Radio 3 as the Lunchtime Concert on August 31.