Blog Archives

Right now: Ann Hallenberg in Moscow (mezzo arias)

In case you need a reminder: check it out. At the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall.

Il ritorno di Tobia Haydn

Overture and aria Sudo il guerierro

Haydn’s stuff is always fun until he gets too noodly. I thought the aria was a bit low for her but an always welcome start.

Paride aed Elena Gluck

Paride’s mournful aria (don’t know the title)

It fit her very well; really nice variations in the middle section.

La clemenza di Tito Mozart

Overture and Deh, per questo instante solo

Capuano’s take on the overture is of the jaunty kind. There is a reason is often played in concerts. Her take on Deh, per questo… is something I think I talked about before. very affecting and natural at the same time ❤

Orphee et Eurydice Gluck

Amour, viens rendre a mon ame

Just yes, with a lot of warm smiles. The public loved it, too. Somehow 40min went in a blink.

Interval

L’italiana in Algeri Rossini

Overture and Cruda sorte!

The overture got out the bombast but perhaps not so much the Italian silliness. AH got all that in Cruda sorte. Just wonderful and tossed off like nothing.

Otello Rossini

Song of the willow

I know nothing about any Ot(h)ello operas, honestly. It sounds beautiful enough and very suited to AH’s tone.

La favorite Donizetti

Overture

Favaritka? It sounded like that in Russian. The darkest thing so far. The Russians love to go very Romantic on things.

Semiramide Rossini

Arsace! not the obvious choice from him, either but In si barbara sciagura.

Encores:

Che faro senza Euridice Gluck (Orfeo)

Really heartfelt, but then again, it’s AH.

Il segreto per esser felice Donizetti (Lucrezia Borgia)

Great to hear Il segreto…! The drinking song with a dark undertow. One of the first mezzo arias I got into, in that random manner one does. I want to listen to it on repeat now. Is there something she can’t sing?

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Baroque triomphe (Wigmore Hall, 6 May 2018)

L’Amour Triomphe

Royal Academy of Music Baroque Soloists
Rachel Podger violin

This was the second time last week when I had to cut a performance short due to work. It happens (so I’m less critical with people who leave at the interval; you never know what their reasons were).

The show was lovely for three reasons: Podger is a wonderful soloist, the students were very good and the musical selections likewise. Though the violin isn’t my favourite sound (especially when it comes to the ways it was used in the second half of the 19th century, but then I usually frind that musical period difficult to crack…), Baroque-style violin has done a lot of good for my warming up to it.

In this context of further opening to new (to me) things, I more than enjoyed Podger’s playing – fluid and playful yet perfectly controlled. Her sense of style is fabulous (super flexible, light). Baroque Bird quipped that the students could’ve relaxed more, as they were doing very well and appeared enthusiastic (especially the trumpets), kept the rhythm without overpowering the others (the harpsichords). And indeed, I can think of at least one established Baroque band that could consider themselves so lucky to sound as disciplined and accurate as the RAM Baroque Soloists… The impish slide to ppp(p) in the pizzicato part was ace – but you know I’m very partial to the soft approach.

A few days ago I was reading YT comments on a certain pop song, where a conversation had started on whether the greatness of classical music vs pop lies in its being harder to play. Someone who’d done both mentioned how often times single classical piece parts are easy because the focus is on sound as a whole, rather than on solo parts. As they say, the devil is in the details – how you approach them, what you do with them.

Georg Phillipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Don Quichotte auf der Hochzeit des Comacho TWV21:32 (excerpts)

Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)
Platée RCT 53 (excerpts)

Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787)
Don Juan (excerpts)

Interval

Jean-Philippe Rameau
Pigmalion RCT 52 (excerpts)

Florid Gluck with Daniel Behle (Wigmore Hall, 4 February 2018)

Daniel Behle first came to my attention in Cosi fan tutte, with his Aur’amorosa, which was the best thing of that night. I was a bit surprised to see him bring a whole Gluck programme because I had this idea that tenors always sing stuff like Una furtiva lagrima in recital, regardless of their usual rep. Then again, as soon as he started I thought to myself  “he even looks like a bureaucratic Tito!”. So he sounds and looks like this rep, he might as well make the most of it.

Daniel Behle tenor
Armonia Atenea
Markellos Chryssicos director, harpsichord

Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787)
La contesa de’ numi
Qual ira intempestiva … Oggi per me non sudi

Le cinesi
Son lungi e non mi brami

Suite of excerpts from Orphée, Don Juan and Iphigénie en Aulide

La Semiramide riconosciuta
Bel piacer saria d’un core

Ipermestra
Non hai cor per un’impresa

Interval

Christoph Willibald Gluck
La Semiramide riconosciuta
Io veggo in lontananza

Antigono
Quercia annosa sull’erte pendici

Baldassare Galuppi (1706-1785)
Concerto a quattro No.1 in G minor a different concert was played but don’t ask me details

Christoph Willibald Gluck

Iphigénie en Aulide
Cruelle, non, jamais

Orphée et Eurydice
J’ai perdu mon Eurydice

Encore:

Oggi per me non sudi

I’m always on the lookout for the next crop of Titi. He seems like a strong contender though I don’t know if he’ll ever get to the level of vocal agility + expressivity someone like Croft showed us is possible in this repertoire. I hope I’m wrong because I’d like to hear more high quality Titi and Idomenei in the years to come. Perhaps he had a slight cold as the very top proved rather stiff, though he navigated around that and everything else worked very well, with a good to very good command of dynamics. He’s convincing when he’s actively involved in music making, he’s not afraid of jumping head first into aggressive bounts of coloratura and his timing is ace (my favourite thing of the evening; his entrances were all spot on, even when the rhythm was akin to a ship tossed by tempestuous winds). I venture to say, though, that he needs to work a bit on his charisma in between numbers; that bureaucratic feel should be left with Tito.

It’s also unusual for me to hear so much stormy stuff from a tenor though of course I know composers occasionally give them such (Fuor del mar, Tu vivi etc.). There wasn’t that much bravura, just of very good quality, chief among them a strong oak aria – Quercia annosa sull’erte pendici – and the very first number, Oggi per me non sudi, which kicked things off in high gear. Pre-reform Gluck can be a lot of fun!

You all know my feelings about AA so I won’t reiterate (quick reminder = my Sabata writeup) but in their favour I quite appreciated Chryssicos’ cembalo skills. I welcomed the toning down of frenzy he brought along. I can see there is a schtick they go for regardless of who’s conducting (ie, fast’n’choppy) but here it was less mad with the rock’n’roll and more with the legato.

Barock’n’roll from fearless Sonia Prina (Wigmore Hall, 28 June 2016)

We love some singers because they are full of emotion. We love others because they dazzle us with their skills. We love Sonia Prina because of her magnetic personality.

The moment she stepped on stage, unapalogetically rock’n’roll (blue spiky hair, tank top and trousers with spangly belt), all eyes were on her. And that’s where they stayed for the rest of the night, along with warmer and warmer ovations. The woman is one of those physical singers who, if nothing else, embodies the energy of the music, be it sorrow, gentleness or triumph. It is, of course, triumph that fits her positive, impish personality best. It’s always great to see a short person command the stage 😉

Sonia Prina and laBarocca | Works by Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787)

— Sinfonia Le cinesi – very lightly done; I noticed that both kinds of bows were used – the first violin as well as another one and the double bass used the old school ones, everyone else had the usual type; sadly I can’t tell you more as I haven’t noticed this before (I’m sure it was just me) so I have nothing to compare it to or know anything on the subject…
Dal suo gentil sembiante Demetrio – Prina started with a soft, tender aria that showcased the many moods she commands and her skill at gracefully transitioning between them
M’opprime m’affana La Sofonisba – she brought forward her very strong low notes – clear, of satisfyingly dense texture and healthy; fury came through, her dynamic stage presence adding to the gravitas
— Sinfonia Ipermestra – the harpsichord as driving force felt istelf present here specifically and throughout in general; the horn had a very fine tone
Nobil onda La Sofonisba – here Prina showed off her ample emotional range, with an emphasis on nobility of spirit
Se in campo armato La Sofonisba – as the title implies, this is a bombastic bravura aria with horns; Prina put all of herself into it (major “stew stirring” arm movements 😉 ), showed spot-on timing throughout and ended with a towering (though not ear-splitting, thank you contralto texture) ff. As I was saying to Leander (read her take on it), this is how you do a trouser role (even though Sofonisba isn’t a trouser role 😀 but you catch my drift – the authority poured off her)

Interval

— Sinfonia La Semiramide riconosciuta – the horn and the winds return; all well integrated
Sperai vicino il lido Demofoonte – she was fearless and spontaneous here, though I felt iffy about her cadenza
Se tu vedessi come vegg’io Ippollito – this was a moment where it was obvious that Prina “stepped” into it well before her part started; she didn’t break the mood in between the verses either
— Ballabili (Dances) Orfeo ed Euridice
Tradita, sprezzata La Semiramide riconosciuta – the low strings created an excellent angsty mood; Prina vividly sustained and was on top of the very strong contrasts; it made me think she’d rock Monteverdi where this matters way more than agility
Se fedele mi brama il regnate Ezio – this one was all about colour and fun with dynamics in general

Encore: ? – whatever it was (she named it but as usual I didn’t get it…), it was suitably grand. Prina dueted very handsomely with the horn (see my comments on that below).

Sonia Prina’s voice is one I instantly liked. It’s unmistakable, as is her manner of singing. More than that, it really works with the whole: her strong stage presence finds perfect reflection in its top to bottom opacity mixed with lighteness. That’s the thing, I think. It’s very opaque, without being particularly dark, but light in weight (though “punchy”, not agile). She can, when she wants, brighten it for effect, and then it gets surprsingly gentle, almost vulnerable, but generally speaking it’s compact and direct. It goes very well with the sound of the horn. It’s regal and extroverted.

Recently I’ve started to listen to more (pre reform) Gluck and I’m liking it better and better. Among other things his La clemenza di Tito is surprisingly (or not?) fetching. More on that in an upcoming post.

This particular selection has afforded Prina the opportunity to show off her considerable emotional range. She’s given us everything from tender gentleness (some disarming diminuendos) to unmovable authority (courtesy of her rock solid – and very sexy – chest notes) – sometimes within a span of seconds, conducted with amazing self assurance. If her coloratura is rather curiously deployed – and, some would say, fired with more aplomb than accuracy – and her ornaments seem so spontaneous that they misfire on occasion, she can build and sustain the mood of an arioso with a coherence and an authority I don’t see very often.

One of the things I remember from watching that Thomas Hampson masterclass was his insistence that the singer should get into the mood and rhythm of the aria before their part starts. Prina definitely does that. She’s riding that mood, whichever it is, whether she’s singing or not. She’s the kind of singer who pays attention to her surroundings (the orchestra), and so her singing feels very oraganic. It’s not for people who go for rigour and cleanliness, but she knows rhythm, has impecable timing, knows how to colour her phrases and make them interesting and isn’t afraid to use her body to illustrate the music. Isn’t afraid to be herself, in fact. She might not be technically the best but she’s one of the most interesting, unique and infectiously positive singers on the scene today. She’s not fussy or self conscious; she sings, she has a good time – seemingly even when the aria is about heartbreak or scorn. We’ve got 6 months until the next Wigmore Hall installment 😀

Random debate with Team London: Bach or Vivaldi?