Brighton Fringe 2018
Late May marks Mezzo Michele Roszak and pianist Lynda Spinney making a very welcome return after their remarkable January 24th recital. They’re also returning on September 19th
It’s almost officially summer, though this programme ‘Music in May’ just makes its month. There’s an added very real birdsong in the church this duo took cheerfully on the wing.
Late May marks Mezzo Michele Roszak and pianist Lynda Spinney making a very welcome return after their remarkable January 24th recital. They’re also returning on September 19th; their three concerts a year is something keenly anticipated by those who love adventurous programming finely sung.
Roszak’s as ever a richly engaging singer pushing her range through the soprano register. Always pushing new repertoire too she ranges widely here. Spinney’s acute understanding maximises their impact since she like Roszak allows each work to find its occasion. Roszak introduces them.
Lerner’s ‘Heather on the Hill’ surprises by its sweet conventional and rather touching innocence, but Roszak’s right to start with such a white palate, allowing her stronger colours through as people get sued to a fine, almost innocent standard. Brahms’ ‘Sapphische Ode’ is about lips meeting lips, a dark-thewed and ruminative meditation on what might have been a lighter-hued piece by anyone from the 20th century.
Hungarian-British Matyas Seiber’s Greek folk-setting ‘O Your Eyes are Dark and Beautiful’ was the January hit and so it proves here, though preceded by another, ‘Have Pity On Me’ which is more conventional (‘O Your eyes is impossible to follow). Both sounded like Bartok: In ‘O Your Eyes….’ Roszak reveals an exultant miniature masterpiece with Spinney’s piano almost granted concertante status in the emphatic down-beats at the beginning of each bar, and Roszak’s magnificent whoops as she scales up to a terrific top note. Cathy Berbarian should have known this.
Debussy’s ‘Voici que le Printemps’ is an early dreamy piece about a prince with a nightingale on one shoulder and a whistling blackbird on the other. Debussy’s symbolism’s more innocent here. It’s charming though not deeply characterful, a wash of Massenet, Fauré, and Debussy’s own writing.
Copland’s ‘The Little Horses’ is a different mater. The prologue to each verse is hushed and dissonant, a strange lullaby, very eastern Europe. Then the folksy refrain tumbles out of the Midwest. Its exhilarating.
After that superb Seiber, Fauré’s En Sourdine’ all about muted colours, comes across as gently muted but being Fauré nothing’s that simple. Like the Brahms it’s chewy and you want to go back and here it again. There’s a tenebrous melancholic edge to it that needs more hearings to bring out.
Richard Strauss’s ‘Allerseelen’ commemorates May remembered on November 2nd, the Day of the Dead. It’s not one of Strauss’s soaring piece, but dipped as it were in chromatic Brahms with a dash of Wolf. Strauss wrote for sopranos and Roszak here richly informs that range. The song too is more evanescent; again I’d loved to have heard it once more.
Rosak invited audience participation for the final two numbers but didn’t get it: everyone was far too rapt. Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ was hauntingly set up by Spinney and Roszak sang to pin-drop silence.
As she did with another of her favourites, within the warm envelope of Kern’s ‘All The Things You Are’ with its memorable but gentle refrain. Finally a Gershwin encore, ‘Love Is Here To Stay’ sung like Roszak really meant it with its joyous paragraphs. It framed a heartening response to an uncertain spring day. Deeply satisfying.