2019.02.13 – Recital, Opéra National du Rhin, Strasbourg


13 February 2019, 20.00 hrs

Opéra National du Rhin, Strasbourg

Simon Keenlyside, baritone

Malcolm Martineau, piano






Nachtigallen schwingen
Über die Heide
O kühler Wald
Es schauen die Blumen


Carte postale
Avant le Cinéma
Francis Poulenc : Suite française FP 80 – Pavane (solo piano)

MAURICE RAVEL (1875-1937)

Histoires naturelles


FRANZ SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Ständchen (“Horch, horch“)
An den Mond in einer Herbstnacht
Der Wanderer an den Mond
An die Leier
Der Einsame
Abschied (short version)


Schubert: L’incanto degli occhi

Grainger:  The Sprig of Thyme



Photo Gallery

Sound bites

olyrix.com, 17.02.19, Pierre Degott

Translated by Gudrun

Keenlyside’s Elegance and Sensibility at the Opéra National du Rhin

Although announced as being indisposed, the Anglo-Irish baritone offers his commitment and the sincerity of his singing.

When a singer like Simon Keenlyside, a lover of nature seasoned by rugby hardships and the roughness of outdoor life, asks that an announcement be made to inform us that he is unwell, the audience can measure the extent of the indisposition. Evidently very much flu-ridden, the great English baritone – who has recently become Irish because of Brexit and was knighted by Prince Charles only a few days before the concert in Strasbourg – nevertheless offers the public his classy attitude.

However, both the indisposition and the disappointment are undeniable in the German part of the programme. The six lieder by Brahms are obviously marred by the impossibility, due to illness, to control an instrument usually known for its golden silkiness and silvery highlights. Strained tone, breathlessness at the end of a phrase, pianissimi without timbre, broken legato – the discomfort engendered for the public is mingled with a strong surge of sympathy and real admiration for the courage and pugnacity of a great artist who is obviously suffering.

The second part of the recital, entirely dedicated to Schubert after a last minute change of programme, still shows the effect of fatigue. This evening the singer relies on a syllabic way of singing based on the understanding of the text for these lieder of a more lyric character. Heidenröslein is even surprisingly rhythmic, with an unusual momentum. This frank and almost brutal singing, inspired by a direct relationship with nature, seems almost destined to correct certain readings of the past marked by refinement and intellectuality. An approach that makes you want to hear Keenlyside interpret the great Schubert cycles when at the the top of his form.

The French part of the programme works better, probably because of the more declamatory character of the songs by Poulenc and Ravel selected for the concert. With aureoles of colours in half shades, the Quatre poèmes de Guillaume Apollinaire, set to music by Poulenc, attest to the refined reading and prosody of the French language: the clarity of the diction, the pliability of the voice, the refinement of the nuances make it possible to hear each syllable. Ravel’s Les Histoires naturelles reveal the treasures of sarcasm and irony of which the great baritone is capable. His instrument seems freer then. The substitution of Schubert’s lieder for Poulenc’s cycle Le Travail du peintre is experienced as even more frustrating by a part of the audience.

A lieder recital requires the presence of a talented and caring accompanist. Malcolm Martineau shows his talent for both the complex rhythms of Schubert and the orchestral colours of the French part.

Marked by courage and determination, the evening concludes with a small dose of very British humour: the encore is dedicated to Keenlyside’s offspring, the transmitter of the virus.

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