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2020.02.03 – Recital, Teatro de la Zarzuela, Madrid


XXVI Ciclo de Lied

03 February 2020,  20.00 hrs

Teatro de la Zarzuela, Madrid



Simon Keenlyside, baritone

Caroline Dowdle, piano


Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828)
Schwanengesang, D 957

Kriegers Ahnung
Der Atlas
Am Meer
Der Doppelgänger

An den Mond in einer Herbstnacht, D 614

Dass sie hier gewesen, Op. 59 Nº 2, D 775

Im Abendrot, D 799

Schwanengesang, D 957

Das Fischermädchen

Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937)

Histoires naturelles

Le paon
Le grillon
Le cygne
Le martin-pêcheur
La pintade

Francis Poulenc (1899 – 1963)

Pavane, de Suite française, FP 80 (solo piano)

Mazurka, FP 145
Paganini, de Métamorphoses, FP 121

Quatre poèmes de Guillaume Apollinaire

Avant le cinéma

Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918)

Voici que le printemps

Gabriel Fauré (1845 – 1924)

Le secret, Op.23 Nº 3
En sourdine, de 5 Melodies de Venise, Op. 58
Le papillon et la fleur, Op.1 Nº 1


Fauré:     Mandoline

Ravel:      Kaddish

Schubert:  Es schauen die Blumen

Photo Gallery

Sound bites

Scherzo, 04.02.20, Blas Matamoro

Translated by Gudrun

‘Keenlyside Between Two Worlds’

“At sixty, Simon Keenlyside has retained the vocal resources of his light baritone, his good looks and a youthful and laid-back air that comes from performing on so many opera stages and concert platforms. To test them he chose two different worlds of chamber music – the German lied (a selection from Schubert’s Schwanengesang) and the French mélodie. Between them, he not only changed the language but for the second part he dispensed with his jacket and sang in shirt sleeves, with a boyish and mischievous air.

In the Schubert songs there were scenes such as the poignant one of Atlas and the elegant one of the  Fischermädchen together with the typical complaints of romantic love, love lost or yearned for, the lover never sure that he will not lose his love even after reaching her. In Der Doppelgänger the singer was compelling and in Ständchen he managed to create a scene. His phrasing was always right, his changes of volume appropriate. He was purposeful in the treatment of the words without ever losing the lyrical notion, the songlike character of the poem in question.

In the French songs, on the other hand, literary recitation with the harmonic cushion of the piano prevailed, hand in hand with the voice. Keenlyside created the picturesque scenes that Ravel paints in his Histoires naturelles, personifying the different creatures of this zoo of cartoons. He did something similar with Poulenc’s songs of poems by Apollinaire, where he set up subjective characters and voices on the prosodic and singable humour of the composer. With Fauré and Debussy he applied the same means, leaving aside the melodic delicacy that they also accept. As encores, for example, Fauré’s Mandoline from Fetes Gallantes was read as a dance of eighteenth-century puppets animated by the verses of Verlaine, along with an impressive Kaddish from Ravel’s Melodies hebraiques.

The pianist was helpful, obedient and correct.”

Codalario, 05.02.20, Óscar del Saz

Translated by Gudrun

Keenlyside’s Hyperactive Emotion

 “We attended with great interest the fourth visit of the mature baritone Simon Keenlyside (1959), who has established an extensive career focused as much on opera as on oratorio and concerts, to Ciclo de Lied, to enjoy a recital certainly attractive because of its varied programme which offered juicy samples of the German and French romantic repertoire. This time he was accompanied by the South-African pianist Caroline Dowdle, known for being the regular accompanist of baritone Sir Thomas Allen (England, 1944), who made her debut in the Ciclo. The artists gave the same concert in Valencia, two days earlier, on 01 February.

Since the programme included a wide selection from “Schwanengesang” (D 957) and a long list of works by various important French composers, we can say that all this became, in its own right, a real tour de force: a long recital of about one hour for each part, substantial and emotionally very dense for any singer with self respect. Of course, when I say “marathon” it did not seem so, considering the ample vocal means Simon Keenlyside demonstrated. He was brimming with energy and gave his all.

As mentioned above a good interpreter of lieder does not only live on skills and vocal stamina but also has to know how to communicate emotion. And, let us be honest, that “drains” a singer. The odd thing is that this was not the case with Simon Keenlyside, since at the end of the recital, after the first encore, he raised the emotional temperature of the hall even more and sang the overwhelming and wonderful “Kaddish” from Ravel’s “Deux mélodies hébraiques” as his contribution to the recent 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps. A version that made the suffering and pain of the Jewish people intensely clear and left our souls equally overwhelmed and bare.

In the first part, 11 of the 14 songs that make up “Schwanengesang” followed each other. As mentioned in the programme, “Die Stadt” was omitted (as we understand to shorten the duration of this part). Keenlyside chose a particular order of interpretation. Let us say, to simplify, that he drew a graph in the form of a “plateau” as regards the progression from melancholy to drama in the first songs until he reached the calm and more even, albeit ominous “Am Meer” and then he arranged a descent down the slope of pure romantic lyricism. The voice of our protagonist, a lyric baritone, possesses a good volume and projection and is technically well equipped to provide his interpretation with the appropriate contrasts and dynamics as well as a high capacity for nuance, musicality and sensitivity, together with a considerable flexibility in legato singing and phrasing, both based on a very good breathing technique.

Of the aforementioned ascent, we highlight “Kriegers Ahnung” and “Der Atlas”, both performed in an almost theatrical, dramatic way, sharing the parts of creating tension with the piano well mastered by Dowdle, although, in our opinion, with a certain lack of bite to match that of the singer. As regards the more even part, there was also an opportunity for introspection in “Der Doppelgänger”, recreated slowly by the baritone, to face up to the psychological double of the protagonist, and with effective and well shaped messa di voce. From the descending section, without any doubt, the interpretation of “Abschied” stood out, sung almost parlando on the fast pianistic fingerings, in a version with a lot of power, which we have also heard from other singers in a much more relaxed tempo, although we find the brio shown by our interpreters more appropriate.

In the second part, groups of songs, all by French composers but very different from each other and also very personal, were presented. We heard the “Histoires naturelles” op. 50 by Maurice Ravel on texts by Jules Renard, which feature various animals, the peacock, the cricket, the swan, the kingfisher and the guinea fowl (a species of chicken from Africa), used as a mirror to expose our human limitations or stupidity. Simon Keenlyside imitated them very accurately, mocking, teasing … In fact, he did not stop moving restlessly around the stage, singing also the rests – which always give a lot of leeway – with the wit of someone telling a story whose moral is that it is noticed when we make a fool of ourselves or with that wink that sees through our shortcomings.

The piano accompaniment which is not too difficult technically, only suggests a certain atmosphere and envelops each story appropriately.

Then it was Poulenc’s turn – “Pavane”, a piano solo which Caroline Dowdle played brilliantly – then poems by Louise de Vilmorin, of whom the singer performed the enigmatic “Mazurka” and the very effective “Paganini”, a composition whose protagonist is the violin of the famous virtuoso. Guillaume Apollinaire’s “Quatre poèmes” also allowed our baritone to demonstrate his skills as a fine and dramatic “French” master of ceremonies, describing scenes of local customs and singing the texts at full speed. And on a much more lyrical level, where it is about singing and not so much about telling stories, he brilliantly performed Debussy’s descriptive and phrased “Voici que le printemps” and three songs by Fauré (the last songs of the recital) “Le secret”, “En sourdine”and “Le papillon et la fleur”, the latter on verses by Victor Hugo, sung with a lot of nuance, full tone and a beautiful line of song to accentuate the beauty of the lyrics.

At the beginning we referred to the hyperactivity of the artist, who addressed the audience several times during the encores, asking them please not to leave the theatre (actually nobody wanted to) because “it will only be 10 minutes more”. …We would like again to emphasize that true gift that moved the audience in the Teatro de la Zarzuela very deeply. The audience surrendered to the power of this artist: “He will gather the strangers who worship him from the earth and restore heavenly worship to his position and may the Holy One be blessed and reign in his sovereign splendour.””

elbinari, 05.02.20, Ofelia Roca

Translated by Gudrun

Simon Keenlyside at the Ciclo de Lied

The concert was dedicated to lieder by Franz Schubert in the first part and to the French mélodie of the late 19th century in the second part.

The first part was a selection from Schubert’s cycle “Schwanengesang”, which was performed by Simon Keenlyside devoted to music and text with a fine musicality and an impeccable technique, which brought to Schubert’s work interpretative depth in its most dramatic sense where required by the score. He always gave the necessary sense to the words by modulating his voice so that he could give each text the right colour. There were certain mismatches with the pianist Caroline Dowdle, who did not manage to create the musicality necessary for cohesion with the baritone, since the pianist played in one way and Keenlyside sang in another, and that meant that the first part did not quite convince.

The second part was more sparkling. Keenlyside was splendid throughout the French repertoire and in better cohesion with the pianist, as the piano part of this repertoire is more dramatic than technical, and there was more understanding between the two artists.

The baritone displayed all his potential in the works by Ravel, Poulenc, Debussy and Fauré, creating genuine experiences in each song with complete drama, with a splendid voice full of vocal nuances and colours, with great expressiveness and communication, with a great command of the music and the text, with an exquisite diction. Keenlyside is an intelligent singer of great talent with the gift of bringing everything he feels across to the audience with absolute honesty and love for singing and the music, always with a very well projected voice with an interesting timbre, with an absolute mastery of the technique that allows him to modulate his voice to give his interpretations a high quality. All that, together with his very strong personality, makes his performances unique.

At the end of the programme he gave us three encores. One of them was Ravel’s “Kaddish” -which he wanted to dedicate to the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – given with a tremendously emotional performance full of feeling and a deep sensitivity that left us all glued to our seats with a lump in our throat.

aliciaperrisblogspot, 05.02.20, Alicia Perris

Translated by Gudrun

KEENLYSIDE. Moving Recital with Kaddish

 “ There are only two types of music: the bad and the good.” Louis Armstrong

“In the Teatro Real in April 2016, Keenlyside, the charismatic and versatile English baritone who often performs in Spain, had already fascinated us with a recital dedicated to songs full of swing by Jewish exiles in New York (Emmerich Kalman, Irving Berlin, Kurt Weill, Jerome Kern or George Gershwin) who wrote the scores for well-known musicals.

Now he has come to grace this cycle which is a co-production of the Centro Nacional de Difusión Música (CNDM) and the Teatro de La Zarzuela. Simon Keenlyside was accompanied by pianist Caroline Dowdle.


His Schubert songs sounded plush and velvety, in a continuous up and down, revealing his exemplary singing line, his smooth way of emission and diction and his sometimes almost imperceptible undertones, his strong middle register, the freshness and lushness of his voice, the easy, total expressiveness, the free-flowing breath. His diction did not recall the harsh German of some colleagues, despite the precise edge of the consonants. You might say that this once, with such an ambassador singing their songs, we forgive the Germans even the two World Wars (!) The Germans and the Austrian, because Schubert was Viennese.

The second part was a demonstration of elegance and know-how, dedicated to French composers, symbolists, Baudelarians, ambiguous, encoded in music and texts to entertain, to dream. Texts by Jules Renard, Louise de Vilmorin, Guillaume Apollinaire, Paul Bourget, Armand Silvestre, “Le Papillon et la fleur” by the genius Victor Hugo.

A different universe, very poetic too. An ideal contrast to the first part, closer to nature, to romantic painting, to the dream landscape also of love and absence.

In the two parts of the recital, he was dressed differently, almost Savile Row casual in grey in the first, if that were possible, in the second all in black, like a Greek before breaking into a Sirtaki. Relaxed but attentive. At times he shrinks, stretches and waits as if he were about to join a brilliant tune.

This former member of the (Anglican) boys’ choir of St. John’s in Cambridge with an English and an Irish passport, half gypsy, very Jewish, soft-spoken, without affectations, his grandfather a violinist and his father a professional musician too, recently knighted, is trying to achieve a balance in life through the modesty and gentleness of an existence where the fascination of the “mix”, travelling, of the countries and cities where he lived and sings, among them Vienna and Barcelona, always resonates. And the early dedication to zoology, a career that has never ended.

A natural polyglot, through life, not through books or studies, married to a prima ballerina of the Royal Ballet, Zenaida Yanowsky, student of John Cameron, the maestro he trusted, lets himself be carried along by his attraction towards blues and jazz and, we suppose, the Klezmer and the culturally mixed music of Central Europe. His world is wide, accessible and open – because he does not  like flags.

A favourite son of the English theatre, he does not only sing, he interprets the songs and his opera roles and creates, even in the most modest of scores, a whole range of emotions, feelings and emotional insights. The audience that filled the hall applauded and applauded him and also the pianist, Caroline Dowdle.

No one moved from their seats until he sang, without having to be asked twice, “Vendredi” (sic) by Fauré as a first encore in very good French and to finish with “Eine schöne Blume” (sic). The best was the Kaddish, sung between those two encores, a Jewish religious funeral chant by Maurice Ravel, which he sang practically a capella, as they do in the synagogue. In Hebrew, with a sound, almost a real lament, torn from the depths of his cosmopolitan heart, it was dedicated to the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp and the Shoah – an event which was observed in January in many countries, including Spain.

At the end of his Kaddish Keenlyside signalled the audience not to applaud and when his “Schöne Blume” had put an end to a glorious evening he exclaimed, “Now you can leave.” This baritone, with an undeniable vocation, both human and pro-European, is a singular, rare pearl. A mature and perfumed fruit..” (the last sentence is a literal translation!!)

larazon.es, 06.02.20, Gonzalo Alonso

Translated by Gudrun

Simon Keenlyside: With Auschwitz came the emotion

“Simon Keenlyside is a baritone with a wide range of repertoire. His recitals are always as varied as they are personal and he has demonstrated this in his five visits to the Ciclo de Lied of the Instituto Nacional de las Artes Escénicas y la Música y la Zarzuela.. In Madrid we have also heard “Wozzeck” and “Pélleas et Mélisande” from his operatic repertoire. He performs a lot but he may not be in the headlines as permanently as other singers.

There are two fundamental things in his favour. On the one hand, his language skills: English by birth, he studied in Hamburg and he speaks French better than many French people. That’s important in opera but fundamental in lieder. On the other hand, his voice is one of the best baritone voices today. It has volume, it projects magnificently thanks to the metal that permeates its very pleasant timbre, impeccable diction and the capacity to vary dynamics from forte to making the voice as thin as a thread. He can handle the falsetto intelligently.

But he also has a weak spot: He does not know how to to present himself on stage. All this was reflected in his Madrid recital. During the first part, which focussed on several songs from Schubert’s “Schwanengesang”, he was wearing a suit of the kind that was worn years ago, with very wide trousers and matching shoes. He seemed awkward and even more so when he sang with one hand in his pocket. This appearance, the sweat on his forehead that had to be wiped off frequently and an apparent nervousness made the Schubert songs less natural and somewhat stiff. This does not belittle the many admirable things mentioned above and “Der Doppelgänger” was a perfect example.

Perhaps his wife, a Spaniard by the way, visited and reassured him in the interval, and Keenlyside came on stage in shirt sleeves and all in black. Again he put his hands in his pockets, especially when this emphasized the humour of «Historias naturales Op. 50» by Ravel and «Cuatro poemas de Guillaume Apollinaire», by Poulenc. He sang them from memory – the music stand only served to remind him of the order of the songs – which is not easy with these pieces full of irony and all sung in enviable French. It was a very personal second part and on a much higher level than the first one, with pieces little known to the general audience, with which the singer himself had a good time.

But the best came with one of the three encores, a long Israeli chant with which he recalled the seventy-fifth anniversary of Auschwitz and for which he did not allow applause. He put all his wares on the table, he was moved and he moved us. It was a great highlight to end with.”








{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Suzanne February 7, 2020 at 1:12 pm

Mr Keenlyside and Ms Dowdle presented such an unforgettable evening in Madrid encompassing drama, grace, romance and humour with such beauty of voice and, to my ears, impeccable technique. I wished it would not end but then, what an ending! The Ravel Kaddish silenced the whole theatre to a breathless hush, which was then skilfully released by the introduction of the charming Es schauen die Blumen as ‘a return to life and love’.
Moving and wonderful! Thank you so very much.

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