2016.11.18 – Recital, Liceu, Barcelona: Malcolm Martineau
18 November 2016
Gran Teatre del Liceu
“Oriental Romance”, de Romances op. 27 núm. 1
“En la mort d’una cadernera” (“On the Death of a Linnet”), de 12 Romances op. 21 núm. 8
“El nenúfar” (“The Water Lily?”), de 6 Romances op. 8 núm. 1
“Just com la resplendor del migdia” (“Just like the blaze of noon”?) , de 12 Romances op. 14 núm. 9
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Don Juan’s Serenade, op. 38 núm. 1
Chanson triste, op. 8 núm. 1
Le manoir de rosemonde
Les chansons gaillardes, FP 42
“La maîtresse volage”
“Chanson à boire”
“Invocation aux parques”
“La belle jeunesse”
Waldesfahrt, op.69 “Nichts”, de 8 Gedichte aus ‘Letzte Blätter’ op. 10 núm. 2
8 Lieder, op. 49
“Junggesellenschwur”, núm. 6
“Waldseligkeit” ”, núm. 1
Alinde, D.904 (op.81 núm. 1)
Geheimes, D.719 (op. 14 núm. 2)
An der Mond in einer Herbstnacht, D. 614
Der Wanderer an den Mond, D.870 (op. 80 núm. 1)
Wie blitzen die Sternen, D.939 (op. 96, núm. 1)
“Abschied”, from Schwanengesang, D. 957 (versos1, 2, 3 & 6)
Mahler Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht?
Pearls of Lieder: recital by Simon Keenlyside and Malcolm Martineau in Barcelona.
Cultural life of Barcelona is rich in events – exhibitions, concerts, performances, festivals. Liceo theatre is one of the most important places for classical music, not only opera but vocal recitals as well. Concerts of leading vocalists from different countries take place regularly. On November 18 Barcelona music lovers had a chance to listen to British baritone Simon Keenlyside, one of the best performers not only of opera but of lieder, and a brilliant pianist Malcolm Martineau. It is a real duet of musicians who have worked together for many years and feel each other perfectly, which is so important in recitals.
For me the most interesting part in this concert was the choice of Russian “romances” – I have heard Simon in different repertoire, and this was a new experience. The pronunciation was almost faultless, and the rendering was emotionally exact – the choice of Rachmaninov is fine for the singer, he is perfect in subtlety and lyricism of sentiment. And Don Juan’s Serenade by Tchaikovsky remimded of numerous Dons performed by Simon Keenlyside during all his carreer.
The next part of the concert was French – songs by Duparc and Poulenc were performed. “Les chansons gaillardes” written to the anonymous texts of the XYIII century were especially impressive. The singer demonstrated all the sides not only of vocal but also of acting talent, creating lively genre scenes.
In the second part several songs by Richard Strauss were performed, and then Simon Keenlyside turned to his much loved Schubert. He is a well-known performer of Schubert’s Lieder, vocal cycle “Winterreise” in his interpretation is just great – I have heard several singers doing it, but Simon’s rendering produced the biggest impression (he sang it with a brilliant pianist Emmanuel Ax). In Liceo well-known and much loved songs were performed – “Alinde”, “Gehemes”, “Wie Blitzen die Sterne”. And great mastery of the singer and the pianist allowed to feel all the charm of these beautiful creations of Schubert.
How beautiful is the world of music! Composers and poets who are far away in time and space express the feelings important for people always and everywhere, and such musicians like Simon Keenlyside and Malcolm Martineau make this beautiful world of great music closer to us.
In Catalan – the section below has been translated by Gudrun
“….Some time ago Keenlyside had to go through a period of serious vocal problems and yesterday he seemed restless (more than he usually is) and not very comfortable. During the first part his voice often showed serious problems, severe discolouration in the high range, lost firmness of emission, not much “on the breath” singing and the voice didn’t seem to warm up. The first section dedicated to Russian composers (a coincidence with Hvorostovsky some days ago) was unfortunate. Neither Glazunov, nor Rachmaninov nor Tchaikovsky seemed appropriate for him. In the second section dedicated to Duparc and Poulenc, he could show more interpretative intensity and more stylistic suitability, although the voice was still reluctant to flow naturally. He won the audience over with his restless “coming and going” on the stage during the songs of Poulenc, but I remained worried.
In the second part the situation had changed radically, since with Strauss and especially Schubert (in spite of more than obvious signs of discomfort which made him throw his tie on the floor as if he wanted to liberate himself from a restriction, he could express himself very naturally, to the point and above all with a most refined interpretation. His phrasing was most elegant and the vocal line very personal and pure. I do not remember any important singer of lieder who moves that much on stage, which is not surprising in a genre where, literally, you have to say much with Franciscan austerity. But Keenlyside seems, in a puzzling way, unbalanced between his vocal and physical expressiveness.
Malcolm Martineau – I don’t know how he managed not to get up from the piano and leave, cocking a snook at us after the behaviour of the public and their lack of sensitivity towards his work – accompanied with his usual mastery, although for a long time I missed this unit which finally came in the songs of the benefactor Schubert, who fortunately the recital ended with. A proof of the saying: “All’s well that ends well”.
The applause of the audience caused three encores, one Strauss and two Schubert. It is wise to take advantage of your potential and offer such encores which you know they won’t disappoint anybody …”
English translation by Gudrun
Keenlyside’s Uneven Recital at the Liceu
The charismatic baritone demonstrated his very high level with ‘lieder’ by Strauss and Schubert during an intense and varied programme
Restless, temperamentally nervous and moving across the stage more than the introspective canon of a lieder recital calls for, Simon Keenlyside got better and better during his performance at the Liceu. The versatile and charismatic British baritone, who has applied for Irish nationality as his rejection of “Brexit”, chose a varied programme with pearls of the Russian, French and German repertoire for his first recital in this house – after his successes with ‘Hamlet’ (2003) and Bieito’s ‘Don Giovanni’ (2008). Almost 30 pieces, including the encores, with which he sought to satisfy his innate curiosity in different repertories, in addition trying to adjust to the acoustics of a room too big for this type of programme.
The effort of carrying out such an intense project, with little margin for breaks as in other types of concerts with operatic arias where soloist and orchestra or pianist playing instrumental pieces take turns, led to the irregularity in the rendition. And that despite Keenlyside being accompanied for this journey by a master of this genre, the great pianist Malcolm Martineau, one of the acclaimed guests of the next Schubertiade at Vilabertran.
James Bond Style
The charm of the artist, in impeccable grey suit, with handkerchief in the pocket of his jacket, and wearing a tie, in an aesthetic reminiscent of a modern James Bond, reinforced the image of elegance and refinement in his singing which became evident in the second part during the interpretation of ‘lieder’ by Strauss and Schubert. At the beginning, with the Russian romances of Glasunov and Rachmaninov and the ‘Serenade of Don Juan’ by Tchaikovsky, it was difficult for him to find the right tone and, compared with the ease and emotion shown by the Russian Hvorostovsky some days ago in a similar repertoire, he appeared far from his best level.
He had difficulties warming up his voice and often made use of his bottle of water to refresh his throat, in addition to taking off the tie and throwing it on the floor with apparent fury at one moment during the evening. Everything improved with the melodic lyricism of the Frenchman Duparc, especially in ‘Chanson triste’ and in the passionate ‘Phidylé’, and above all with the ironic miniatures of Poulenc’s cycle ‘Les chansons gaillardes’, where he showed great expressiveness and comical talent and his singing was very close to the demands of the scores.
Part of the audience obviously didn’t know the rules of how to follow such a recital, which made it difficult for the artists to concentrate. Some members of the audience applauded at the end of each piece, although a cycle had not been completed, and didn’t respect the necessary silence at the end of a song, even drowning the last notes of the piano.
Half the Capacity
The singer rose above this atmosphere in the second part with six romantic lieder by Strauss where melancholic love songs alternated with songs to nature. But the Schubert songs were the absolute highlight. The delicacy of ‘Alinde’, the climax of ‘Geheimes’, the lyricism of ‘An den Mond in einer Herbstnacht’ and that of the other pieces in the stylistic line of the famous ‘Winterreise’ took him in a flash to the rhythmical ‘Abschied’ from the cycle ‘Schwanengesang’.
Keenlyside finally displayed a voice entirely at home in a repertoire that he is a master of. Both Strauss and Schubert returned in the three encores which finished a good performance scheduled in a week with too many offers and with the recent recital of Hvorostovsky which, without doubt, was a reason why only half of the seats at the Liceu had been sold.
Translation by Gudrun
For the Love of Schubert
The Gran Teatre del Liceu has programmed only one lieder recital this season – but in charge of it are two of the best specialists of the genre during recent years: Simon Keenlyside and Malcolm Martineau. They presented a heterogeneous programme, as interesting as it was daring, which worked very well, with excellent interpretations thanks to the intelligence, high standards and versatility of them both.
The Russian composers do not belong to Keenlyside’s usual repertoire, although, if I remember well, there was a block of Russian songs in his first recital at the Liceu about ten years ago. This time Glazunov and Rachmaninov opened the concert. Keenlyside’s voice had not yet settled down, but he sang the four songs with lyricism, supported by the delicacy of Martineau’s playing, that helped more than a little to create the melancholic Russian atmosphere. In contrast with Glazunov and Rachmaninov, theatricality and frivolity were introduced by a composer as little frivolous as Tchaikovsky, with his elegantly rendered ‘Don Juan’s Serenade‘. (This was the first abrupt change of the night, a kind of warning of what was to come later.)
From the Russian repertoire we went on to the French, almost indispensable for Keenlyside’s repertoire. We listened to only three songs by Duparc, three pearls of his very brief repertoire and three marvellous versions. The score of ‘Chanson triste‘ explicitly asks for tenderness and Keenlyside sang it with moving sweetness and tenderness and with beautiful piani and voice control. The dramatic ‘Le manoir de Rosamonde‘ followed – the baritone’s dramatic narration was impeccable, as was also the pianist, with his sound now dry, now as delicate as thread. And, to finish this block, ‘Phidylé‘ where Keenlyside again adjusted his voice as he wanted to, shading it to transmit every detail of the text. It was a beautiful interpretation, with Martineau controlling the tension in the piano very well in the second part of the song, before playing a sensational crescendo in the final part. A beautiful Duparc which took us to certainly the most awkward part of the programme, Poulenc’s ‘Chansons Gaillardes‘.
Poulenc, one of the composers often sung by Keenlyside, chose tavern texts to write a cycle in which he often plays at hiding most obscene poems under a more than respectable musical appearance, so that these must be sung very well to get the message across. Always following Poulenc’s instructions, avoiding any vulgarity and scrupulously respecting the score is very demanding for the pianist. Finally, a risky bet. But as Martineau is a great pianist and Keenlyside is very eloquent and neither of them is short of elegance, they became accomplices in showing their ‘loutish’ side (I say this with all respect), and they offered a similarly marvellous interpretation as in the songs of Duparc. Keenlyside played with changes of colour to emphasize verses and words here and there when it was needed. The last verse of ‘L’offrande‘, for example, or a great ‘Sérénade‘, so comically serious that they could barely hold back laughter at the end.
Where the first part had started with an intimate tone and ended frivolously, the second part was the other way round: it started frivolously with Strauss (without Poulenc’s rudeness, although both composers were joined by their arguments against marriage). Four very well sung lieder which started and ended in the forest: from ‘Waldesfahrt‘, theatrical and very varied, to the cheerful ‘Waldesseligkeit‘ which set the scene for the last block, six songs by Schubert.
Schubert. Tie off, shirt collar unbuttoned, jacket open – a kind of liberation we have seen Keenlyside perform at other times before singing lieder by this composer. And also a kind of transformation. No matter how well he has sung the previous pieces, when there are Schubert lieder they will outshine them. A warm, natural, elegant, expressive Schubert, without any artificiality. A familiar Schubert, easy to listen to (and this is not as natural as it might seem). From the first note of ‘Alinde‘ to the last of ‘Abschied‘ – magnificent Schubert. I could hold forth describing details of each song, but is that necessary?
As much as I would like to finish these impressions with the good memory of the music, allow me now to talk about the negative aspect of the concert: the behaviour of part of the audience. It is normal that those who are new to this genre don’t know the rules but perhaps it would be good if they were a little cleverer and more observant before starting to applaud after each song. Especially, when after the first song of a cycle the singer makes a gesture to interrupt the applause and another to thank for the silence; who is then going to applaud again after the second song? On the one hand, this led to a kind of war between the applauders and the attempts to silence them by another part of the audience, and on the other hand, the artists tried to avoid the applause by tackling the songs without a break (which is also not very desirable). Perhaps it would be a good way to welcome ‘newcomers’ to recitals by including a short explanation of customs in the programme booklet; basically, that a block of songs should be listened to as a unit, that silence is a part of the music or that one never ever must applaud before the pianist has finished the song. It is not a question of imposing any old-fashioned rule, only of respecting the work of two professionals on stage and not disturbing the concentration of all, audience and musicians. I don’t know how this situation was experienced from the stage and in any case Keenlyside and Martineau are too polite to show their displeasure, but from below (in the auditorium) one felt discomfort and tension.
Let’s come back to the music. We enjoyed three encores: the first one a seductive ‘Ständchen‘ by Strauss (perhaps to compensate for Poulenc’s ‘Sérénade’?); the second, a short appearance of Mahler with the enchanting ‘Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht?’And, finally, an exquisite interpretation of ‘Nachtviolen‘. Die heilige Verbindung (the holy alliance), is there a better way to end a recital?
This is the Catalan language version of the review in Platea Magazine. For English translation please see above.
In Catalan – English translation by Gudrun
“…..Now let’s concentrate on the purely musical aspects of the concert. Simon Keenlyside chose a very varied programme which, in the first part, included a Russian block, with songs by Aleksandr Glazunov, Sergei Rachmaninov and Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky. The song no. 1 of opus 27 of Glazunov’s Oriental Romances and the three selections (selected songs) by Rachmaninov were united by the gipsy influence in their melodic line. Airs reminiscent of the Orient that Simon Keenlyside declaimed with correctness, as if still in the process of warming up his voice, but above all with an evident effort to concentrate in the face of an audience that was not at all familiar with the matter. Keenlyside used the better-known Don Juan’s Serenade to show his vocal power and brilliance, finally setting off the first applause of the evening. The second section, consisting of three delightful melodies by Duparc: Chanson triste, Le manoir de Rosemonde and Phidylé, of very different character, allowed us to enjoy the litheness of Keenlyside’s voice. He is a master of lieder and knows very well how to adapt his generous vocal capacities to this genre. In that respect, Phidylé was the great jewel of this first part, in which the singer continued to fight with great professionalism against an atmosphere of hostile irresponsibility of a large part of the audience. The Chansons gaillards connected with the audience more easily by means of the more comic aspects of the lyrics which the singer intentionally emphasised, especially in “La maitrisse volage” and “Chanson á boire”, where Keenlyside used a glass of water as a prop, in accordance with the topic of the song. Despite this, the first part ended with a strange feeling of dissatisfaction.
I don’t know if it was a deliberate gesture or not: in the second part Keenlyside got rid of his tie which seemed to be choking him, an impetuous gesture which the audience sympathized with. All in all, it seemed as if, finally, Keenlyside had decided to make himself comfortable and invited the audience to do the same. As if by magic and, of course, thanks to the English baritone’s masterly art of singing, the audience seemed to fall in a kind of lethargy accompanied by the melodies of Richard Strauss and especially, Franz Schubert, with whom the magic finally cast its spell and produced the much longed for silence, with such delicate songs as An den Mond in einer Herbstnacht or Der Wanderer an den Mond, in which the verse “O,glücklich wer, wohin er geht, doch auf der Heimat Boden steht!” (O happy he who, wherever he goes, still stands on his native soil) finally became a reality.
We don’t know if the new audience really understood that a lieder recital is an invitation to share the intimacy of feelings normally involved in a series of poems in the small space of a song. For those who understood this, the end of the concert allowed to see how Keenlyside in the end achieved his aim, and it showed clearly the authentic lesson in seduction we could be present at. The avalanche of most deserved -now yes!- applause and bravos made it possible to enjoy a little more of Keenlyside’s art with three lieder: Ständchen by Strauss, Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht? by Mahler and Nachtviolen by Schubert, with which Keenlyside wished us “Good Night”. And a good night it was!”