Browsing: Art Song

At a time when many are wondering if there is a future for the classical singing recital, we are currently experiencing a golden age for this genre, which offers incalculable rewards. After Holzmair, Le Roux and Goerne, who were at the forefront of this new golden age, four baritones of different traditions now dominate the recital scene. The greatest lyrical artist of his generation – not just a singer but a true vocal artist – Gerald Finley was born in Montreal. As comfortable in opera as in concert or recital, Finley demonstrates a remarkable ability to tell more than twenty…

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It all started in 1985, during dinner. Ted Perry, founder of the British independent label Hyperion Records, asked the celebrated collaborative pianist Graham Johnson what he would most like to record. Johnson’s answer was simply, “All of Schubert’s Lieder.” Perry agreed immediately. Schubert set more than 700 texts, most as songs for solo voice, but also for vocal ensemble. Almost all are accompanied by piano. Ironically, it took 18 years for Schubert to compose his Lieder (1810-1828), the same time that it took Hyperion (1987-2005) to record and distribute 37 compact discs featuring more than 60 individual singers. Johnson was…

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Composed in 1827 by Franz Schubert, Winterreise is a landmark in the annals of classical music. So much so that that this 24-song cycle for voice and piano based on poems by Wilhelm Müller has been recorded an estimated 200 times. The words convey the wanderings of a man befallen by an unrequited love. The cycle, however, deals less with the man’s states of mind than the images of loneliness conjured by the winter scenery, or the people that cross his path, like the hurdy-gurdy player, a fellow wanderer whose company he solicits. Winterreise is truly one of the great…

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At the turn of the 20th century, the tradition of the drawing-room ballad still held sway. Songs of little literary value by Liza Lehmann, Maude Valerie White, Arthur Sullivan, Edward German and others were extremely popular. While Hubert Parry (especially his 12 sets of songs, comprising settings of Shakespeare and other important English poets, called English Lyrics), Charles Stanford and Arthur Somervell were trying to raise the standard of song-writing, their efforts paled when Edward Elgar presented his cycle Sea Pictures months before the new century. It was in many respects the beginning of the British art song renaissance. Though…

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In May 2015, Toronto philanthropist James Norcop arrived in Montreal on a mission. While South Korean singers were sweeping the CMIM largely on the basis of their flair for opera, Norcop proposed to CMIM executive director Christiane LeBlanc to create an Art Song division as part of the triennial voice edition of the CMIM, effectively splitting the category in two, one for opera and one for art song. “It took her less than two minutes to say that she loved the idea,” recounted Norcop. After meeting with her board, LeBlanc told Norcop the good news. The catch was that the…

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Back in our April issue, Wah Keung Chan and I predicted that John Brancy would be one of the winners of the 2018 CMIM. I met the American baritone with pianist Peter Dugan two days before the Aria division finals. Brancy won First Prize in the Art Song division and the French Mélodie Award. Is vocal technique different for opera and art song? John: Absolutely. When I was singing mélodies at Bourgie Hall, I was able to play with the hall; it had the acoustics that allow the performer do that. I could go ‘off the voice’ and into pure…

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Maximilian Schmitt, tenor Maximilian Schmitt has already garnered formidable experience on the operatic stage, having performed at the Vienna State Opera and Milan’s Teatro alla Scala. Particularly admired in concert as a singer of Bach, this young German tenor has worked under the direction of such conductors as Franz Welser-Möst, Daniel Harding, Fabio Luisi, Andres Orozco-Estrada, René Jacobs, Mariss Jansons, Teodor Currentzis and Philippe Herreweghe. He has performed at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, the Heidelberger Frühling, Cologne’s Philharmonie and the Tonhalle Düsseldorf together with the distinguished pianist Gerold Huber (the erstwhile partner of Christian Gerhaher). Ever since his debut at London’s Wigmore…

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Like many elements in music, the term art song is hard to define and even harder to date. There are important linguistic differences when speaking about art song. If the term is directly applied to British and American song, for example, it has no real relevance in the celebrated German tradition where one talks of Lieder. The same is true in France, where the art song’s closest equivalent is mélodie rather than the romance (a genre in its own right) or chanson, which closely resembles the Spanish canción and the Italian canzone. These linguistic differences are in part essential specificities of the respective…

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Canadian Art Song Project Canadian Art Song Project was founded in 2011 by tenor Lawrence Wiliford and pianist Steven Philcox. Its mission is to build on the rich legacy of Canadian song by engaging composers, authors and performers to share and celebrate their experiences through the creation of new music while providing opportunities for Canadian artists to champion the wealth of the existing song literature. In addition to presenting concerts, CASP has commissioned 13 Canadian works for voice and piano, released five commercial CDs and a podcast called Conversations with Canadian Art Song Project. During the 2018-19 season, CASP will celebrate…

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I first heard Philippe Sly at the 2012 Concours musical international de Montréal. He was only 23, but that didn’t prevent him from winning every prize: First overall, best Quebec artist, best Canadian, best interpretation of an imposed Canadian art song and the Radio-Canada People’s Choice Award. I met him more than six years later on a hot summer day at his place in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve quarter, which has also enjoyed a recent cultural awakening. Sly reminisces: “The first thing I remember about opera was actually going to an operetta when I was seven years old in Ottawa.  I was…

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