Blog Archives

Christine Rice MIA, Julien Van Mallaerts in de hause (Wigmore Hall, 18 June 2018)

I’m all for privacy but what is going in in the Rice camp, y’all? This year alone I was supposed to see her three times (January, March and June) and everything ended up cancelled. I hope things are on the mend, for everyone’s sake.

Wiggy presented us with a young upstart instead, namely baritone Julien Van Mallaerts, who is about to go to Bayreuth for some Wagnerian schooling. He did sound like that. The end.


With Rice we were expecting a French programme (La voix humaine) so we at least got that (not La voix humaine –¬†but wouldn’t it be fun to hear a baritone sing it?). You know I like ze French songse. His French diction is good (or I had a very good seat) and he seemed like he really got into it interpretively. Pity we didn’t know what was so funny, though based on the titles I’m sure it was. I need to get a bit more culture (not just about Madama Butterfly). I thought he had a nice, run-of-the-mill baritone but Anna wasn’t so sure it was a bari-tone after all (his low notes were a bit cloudy to me, especially if he wanted to do pp. He was at his best when he could employ bright and loud highs).

Whatever it is, it wasn’t offensive but nothing much to write home about as far as I’m concerned. How about a picture of Camden instead1? It was such a warm and gorgeous day on Monday, Anna and I decided to walk along the Regent Canal (yes, I wanted to take some pictures like I couldn’t after the last Lunchtime Concert when the battery died after two measly shots ūüėČ ).

not quite Venice but nice cow, eh?

Julius Drake was a treat twice within less than 24hours, though I thought he was a lot more interesting (like super cool) in the German programme. I commend that work ethic!

Julien Van Mallaerts baritone
Julius Drake piano

Henri Duparc (1848-1933)
La vie antérieure

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Fêtes galantes Book II
Les ingenus
Le faune
Colloque sentimental

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Histoires naturelles
Le paon
Le grillon
Le martin-pecheur
La pintade
Don Quichotte à Dulcinée
Chanson romanesque
Chanson epique
Chanson a boire


Nachtlied Schubert

  1. It has come to my attention that I don’t post enough pictures, so there you go, nautical London. 

The French Connection 6: Nash Ensemble feat. Rebecca Evans (Wigmore Hall, 20 March 2018)

Since last October, The Nash Ensemble has been the ensemble in residence at Wigmore Hall. Most of their shows have featured French music of the past roughly 100 years, some of which I am now sad I missed, having just discovered an insuficiently tapped affinity for it. But let this be a start!

Nash Ensemble / Ian Brown piano
Rebecca Evans soprano

Camille Saint-Sa√ęns (1835-1921)
Caprice sur des airs danois et russes Op. 79

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Cinq mélodies populaires grecques
Chants populaires (selection)

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
String Quartet in G minor Op. 10


Maurice Delage (1879-1961)
Quatre poèmes hindous

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor Op. 45

This show was supposed to feature Christine Rice, who cancelled. I hope everything is good in her camp, given she had to pull out of the entire run of Ulisse this past January.

I only became aware of the change of artist the day of the show and, for a moment, I considered not attending. But then I thought, hey, why not? It turned out to be the right decision.

First off, it has started to become clear to me that I really enjoy French song – as well as the instrumental output. The way the French handle chord progressions is quite different from everyone else and at this point I still find it surprising and refreshing for the ear (though Rameau remains hit and miss…).

I’d seen Evans twice before as Countess Almaviva and then Rodelinda (just a few months ago) and those didn’t turn me into a fan – though her Rodelinda was properly frightening, so it came pretty close. This, however, showcased her intelligence when it comes to phrasing. I’d say she likes singing this stuff perhaps more than the other things I’d seen her in, as what I sensed was a good deal of spontaneity and even playfulness, neither of which is easy to achieve. There were some limitations to her voice which her obvious feeling for style and well honed stage experience (particularly in the sense of tackling things head on) couldn’t quite overcome and in turn made me think this would be/is fabulous rep for Antonacci. That being said, I would come see Evans again in more of the same.

As far as instrumentals, I loved the Saint-Sa√ęns, but then I normally like what I’ve heard from him. Such fun and playful writing for the winds! That is the right approach in getting yours truly interested, because later on came a lot of string shredding, which for me can be rather much (no fault of the ensemble, they sounded gorgeous). This rep was unusually heavy on the viola (ended with a broken string, too) but our violist’s tone sounded superb even for this wind instrument fan. The other piece I loved (not just liked) was Delage’s Quatre po√®mes hindous, where vocals and orchestra fed off each other optimally, plus who knew cello does such a good job doubling up as sitar?! Clearly not me, but I was once again (very) pleasantly surprised.

Conclusion: taking a chance can pay off big time.