Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Liebeslieder (5 Aug 2011) in Review

Guest contributor Alvin Koh attended SOTA's Liebeslieder on 5 August, featuring singers Jeong Ae-Ree, Ralph McDonald, Phua Ee Kia and Reuben Lai as well as Shane Thio and Hye-Son Choi on the piano. In his second review with us he shares with a few thoughts about the concert:

Liebeslieder was an ideal way for me to end my day (or rather the start of the evening). This year, I have seen 3 song concerts, 2 at Yong Siew Toh Recital Hall and last night's concert.

Besides the endearing favourite german songs I knew such as Ganymed by Schubert, Widmung by Schumann and Zueignung  by Strauss (which I enjoy listening to more than singing it), the lesser known songs, (at least not in my vocabulary) such as Talismane, the Witches' Song and the Brahms' Liebeslieder Waltz Songs were, together with the more well known ones mentioned, indeed an aural feast, an ambitious attempt to represent the spirit of the art of the german Lied with a small selection from the pantheon of songs by these important composers.

The singers, of diverse backgrounds, each focusing on two to four songs and coming back together for the exquisite Brahms' Liebeslieder Waltz Songs for a quartet, did an admirable rendition generally. The evening was started off by Mr.Reuben Lai whose rendition could not be spoken unkindly of, given his precarious situation as a consequence of a most pernicious cold. I have great admiration for his commitment and he cleverly employed a lighter tone and finta in his singing. His vocal tone, though not in top form, hinted at a great potential to render art songs with appropriate colour and virtuosity when aided with a healthier disposition.

Mr. Phua Ee Kia's countertenor did not lend itself well to most of the lieder repertoire, I dare say, and certainly not in the songs he sang. Widmung ideally requires colourful medium low notes (which he struggled with) and needless to say a good medium high full voice to sing this exciting lied.The choice to sing Zueignung, of a slightly similar theme, is more forgiving. Unfortunately, the necessary piano (some singers might have had even taken the risk to sing it pp) in the first one and a half lines and crisp diction required are lacking and failed to do justice to the sensitive treatment by pianist Hye-Son Choi on the pianoforte. The grand and glorious "Heilig, heilig an's Herz dir sank" is indeed not easy to produce by a countertenor voice but Mr. Phua did not do a bad job at all.

Ralph McDonald's delightful and informative introduction of the theme of the concert was very helpful in perpetuating the musical mood and helping the audience to appreciate the hoch art form of vocal recitals. His excellent choice and rendition of songs were commendable, as was his steadfast vocal technique, although I would prefer that he went straight ahead to the 'Or' vowel in "Wie im MORgenglanze.." in Ganymed instead of slowly sliding between the consonant "m" and the proceeding vowel.

Miss Jeong Ae Ree stole part of the glamour of the evening not only with the superb musical treatment of her songs (a set of Mendelssohn lieder) but also by the drama created intentionally and not at all unaptly. The Witches' Song was daringly played and dramatised and yet without crossing the boundary between operatic acting and art song showmanship. Although Miss Jeong's petite leggerio soprano voice may be considered 'small' for this song, she used it quite well to create the suitable dramatic effect. Seldom has a light voice created such a 'ringing' in my ears and though Miss Jeong's was not the first to do that, my ears were certainly 'ringing' amidst her solos and her singing in the quartet ( FYI,the great Dilber was the first.). Mr. Shane Thio and Dr. Hyeu played with much musicality and sensuality in their collaboration with the lovely singers.

Indeed, I was very pleased to have participated as part of the audience and as I walked down the treacherous steps proceeding away from SOTA, I told myself I had to dig up my old german song cds and revisit the charming experience I had at Liebeslieder.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Alvin,

    I was very much hoping that people (especially those who have heard me before) would realise I was unwell that evening. It probably sounds like I am over-compensating right now but I just hope to clear this - both Reuben and I were ill. I had a sinus problem which constricted my throat and affected my falsetto. Nonetheless, it is just not me to want to announce something like that to the audience because it comes across as an excuse. Nonetheless the truth remains that I was not in top form and hence, I apologise for the lacklustre performance that evening. I am happy to sing these two exact lieder once again for you in the future to prove that countertenors can perform songs of this genre. And by the way, my accompanist was Mr Shane Thio.

    Phua Ee Kia


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