United Kingdom Samling Showcase: Joan Rodgers (soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano), Wigmore Hall, London (RB)
Susanna Hurrell (Soprano)
Nick Pritchard (Tenor)
Morgan Pearse (Baritone)
Arshak Kuzikyan (Bass-Baritone)
Jonathan Ware (Piano)
Purcell: Now that the sun hath veiled his light
Mendelssohn: Die Liebende schreibt; Hexenlied
Schumann: Sehnsucht nach der Waldgegend; Wanderung; Stille Liebe
Tchaikovsky: Various songs
Mozart: ‘Se vuol ballare’ from Le Nozze di Figaro
Schubert: Songs from Die Schöne Müllerin
Mozart: ‘Soll ich dich, Teuer, nicht mehr sehn?’ from Die Zauberflöte
Mozart: ‘Secondate aurette amiche’ from Cosi fan tutte
Massenet: ‘ Adieu, notre petite table’ from Manon
Rachmaninov: Sing not to me, beautiful maiden
Mussorgsky: ‘Mefistopheles’ Song’ (Song of the flea)
Britten: ‘Rome is now ruled’ from The rape of Lucretia
Mozart: ‘Bei Männern’ from Die Zauberflöte
Schumann: So wahr die Sonne scheinet
Donizetti: ‘Bella siccome un angelo’ from Don Pasquale
Mozart: ‘La mia Dorabella’ from Cosi fan tutte
The Samling Artist Programme is an intensive residential masterclass led by world-class artists, teachers and experts, such as Joan Rodgers and Malcolm Martineau. The programme attracts outstanding young pianists and singers from around the world. This concert was designed to showcase some of the new and emerging talent from the programme. It was a good mixture of famous songs and operatic arias although the organisers might want to look again at the printed programme – while it provided translations of the poems and some useful information about the opera excerpts it provided no information or analysis about the actual music.
Susanna Hurrell, who recently played the role of Lauretta in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi at the Royal Opera House opened the concert with Purcell’s evening hymn on a ground; she was accompanied by Jonathan Ware who has won number of major prizes at song competitions. Hurrell produced a very full and clear sound and brought gravity to this penitential hymn while Ware complemented her beautifully giving us some tasteful decoration. Mendelssohn’s Die Liebende schreibt is based on a poem by Goethe in which a young woman writes about her feelings in a letter. Hurrell brought out the sense of yearning in the song and she sang with an engaging emotional openness. Ware provided some tastefully executed passagework in Mendelssohn’s Hexenlied while Hurrell offered some powerful, dramatic singing.
Morgan Pearse, who recently appeared in the roles of Papageno and Yamadori for Huston Grand Opera Studio, then joined Ware for a selection of songs by Schumann. He produced a warm, rich tone in Sehnsucht nach der Waldgegend and brought out the sense of wistful longing in the song. Ware did well with the springy rhythms in Wanderung while Pearse brought a lilting sweetness to the vocal line and captured the bracing forthright quality of the song. In Stille Liebe I was not convinced the performers quite captured the unrequited sense of longing and profound anguish at the heart of the song and Pearse’s tone was occasionally a little thin at the lower end of the vocal register.
Joan Rodgers and Malcom Martineau then came to the stage for a selection of songs by Tchaikovsky. Rodgers is clearly a highly accomplished artist but I felt her voice did not have the lustre or the range of colour that we have heard in the past. The tone sounded a little thin in It was in early Spring and the sense of unbearable sadness and desolation was not quite there in None but the lonely heart. Armenian bass-baritone, Arshak Kuzikyan, then joined Ware for Figaro’s ‘Se vuol ballare’ from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. Kuzikyan has won a number of song and opera prizes and he has taken on the roles of Dulcamara and Colline for the International Opera Studio, Spain. Kuzikyan acted the role well and he brought a depth of tone and a teasing sense of playfulness to the aria although there were a few minor intonation problems at the top of the vocal register.
Nick Pritchard and Malcolm Martineau then performed a selection of songs from Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin. Pritchard has performed as a soloist with Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir and he appeared as the Prologue in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw for Opera Holland Park. In ‘Die liebe Farbe’ Martineau did an excellent job bringing out the tension in the opening chords. Pritchard brought an easy flowing lyricism to the vocal line although I felt he did not entirely connect with the very bleak and difficult emotions being described in the song. The performance of ‘Die böse Farbe’ was rather untidy and did not really capture the very turbulent emotions being described. ‘Trockne Blumen’ was the most successful song in the Schubert selection with both performers bringing out the sense of spareness and aridity in the opening section before allowing the flowers to bloom in the final few stanzas.
The first half of the concert concluded with Mozart’s sublime trio from Die Zauberflöte in which Sarastro bids Pamina and Tamino to make their final farewells to each other. Hurrell, Pritchard and Kuzikyan blended together well and brought a rich vocal lustre to the music while Ware and Martineau produced a graceful, flowing accompaniment.
Pritchard, Pearse and Ware opened the second half with ‘Secondate aurette amiche’ from Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. The scene was acted extremely well and the singers produced a gorgeous vocal bloom while nailing the duplicitous lovers to perfection. Hurell then joined Ware for ‘Adieu, notre petite table’ from Massenet’s Manon. Ware conjured up Massenet’s orchestral sonorities from his Steinway although I would have liked Hurrell to bring a little more dramatic force to this aria and to create a more convincing musical narrative. Kuzikyan and Ware picked up the baton next with songs by Rachmaninov and Mussorgsky. These were exceptionally fine performances from Kuzikyan: he brought rich dark timbres to the soulful melancholy of Rachmaninov’s Sing not to me, beautiful maiden while the dark, absurdist humour of Mussorgsky’s Song of the flea was characterised brilliantly.
Pritchard and Ware opened the next set of songs with ‘Rome is now ruled’ from Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia. Pritchard gave us perfectly sculpted phrases and excellent diction and he is clearly in his element with Britten’s idiomatic vocal writing. Hurrell, Pearse and Ware were up next for ‘Bei Männern’ from Die Zauberflöte. There was elegance and lightness about this performance and exquisitely shaped phrases. Rodgers, Kuzikyan and Martineau brought elegance and charm to Schumann’s So wahr die Sonne scheinet while Pearse and Ware gave us a highly accomplished performance of ‘Bella siccone un angelo’ from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale. As with the first half, the concert concluded with a trio from a Mozart opera: this time ‘La mia Dorabella’ from Cosi fan tutte. Martineau and Ware brought out the playfulness and elegance of Mozart’s score while Pritchard, Pearse and Kuzikyan produced sparkling ensemble singing to end the recital in style.
Overall, the performances were good, if a little bit patchy in places, and it was great to have the opportunity to hear these potential stars of the future.