Friday, January 23, 2015

Christine Seng's 'Poetry and Love' in Review

Poetry and Love
Songs by Schumann, R. Strauss, Rodrigo and others
Esplanade Recital Studio, Singapore
Christine Seng - soprano
Kee Loi-Seng - tenor
Vincent Chen - piano
Christina Zhou - violin
17th January 2015

A review by Hawk Liu

The concert was a good programme of lieder music which was kept interesting by having different voices for each song cycle of Schumann's in the first half and an unusual addition of Spanish songs in the second half along with Richard Strauss numbers.

Christine Seng started with Frauenliebe und Leben. Starting off nervous, she sounded a little detached at first but eventually became more connected to the music. It was a bright and light voice which unfortunately was also not in pitch at many places, but one can see that the songs, with its themes of love, marriage and childbirth, found a lot of resonance with the singer.

Kee Loi-Seng gave a lot of commitment to the sentiments of the text in the first seven songs of Dichterliebe. It was a mostly Italianate approach to the phrasing while still sounding appropriately Teutonic. Kee Loi-Seng finished off well with the last movement Ich grolle nicht. The voice remained rich and attractive throughout.

The Richard Strauss were all gems with the very capable Vincent Chen (pianist) giving the most exquisite accompaniment in Stänchen. Christina Zhou played an effective violin solo though I would have preferred a stronger and more focused tone in Morgen to Christine Seng's soprano. Kee Loi-Seng gave a full hearted, Italianate Allerseelen. It was vocally satisfying. The voice did remind me of the Spaniard Francisco Araiza.

After the exciting familiar Strauss, it was time for the unusual inclusion of Rodrigo. Christine Seng showed off her high coloratura skills in De donde venis,amore?, which to me was the best singing that evening. Seng connected much better with the sprightly pieces where her bright timbre was suited. Unfortunately, the pitching was in question again for the Spanish section.

The final duet from West Side Story was vocally well sung but a bit of a misadventure for the tenor in terms of the text and pronunciation, and the soprano in terms of pitching. Even the pianist stumbled in a few places. Nonetheless, it gave the two singers the opportunity to sing out in full voice, giving us rousing end to evening. A final encore of O mio babbino caro ended the evening officially.

Despite some misgivings, I found the concert a most interesting one with interpretations of popular songs as well as taking us down some less trodden roads.

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