Friday, 23 October 2015

Pupils of Nadia Boulanger - a soup concert with Burt Bacharach and Michel Legrand

Fredrik Lycke and Andre Ferrari at Stockholm's Concert Hall - photo Jan-Olav Wedin
Fredrik Lycke and Andre Ferrari at Stockholm's Concert Hall - photo Jan-Olav Wedin
Michel Legrand, Burt Bacharach; Fredrik Lycke, Anders Neglin, Andre Ferrari; Stockholm Concert Hall
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Oct 16 2015
Star rating: 4.0

Planet Hugill in Stockholm: Music by Legrand and Bacharach, both pupils of Nadia Boulanger, in intelligent musical performances

The second which I attended in the Royal Swedish Philharmonic Orchestra's 2015 Composer's Festival at the Stockholm Concert Hall, dedicated to the music of Lili and Nadia Boulanger, was a lunchtime concert on Friday 16 October 2015. The hall runs regular lunchtime soup concerts in the smaller hall, the Grunewald Hall (so called because it is decorated all over with paintings by the Swedish artist Isaac Grunewald). This concert in the series took a slightly different slant. Having presented music by the two sisters in the three previous concerts, the lunchtime one looked at music by two of Nadia Boulanger's pupils. There were many to choose from, but intriguingly Michel Legrand and Burt Bacharach were chosen. That is part of Nadia Boulanger's fascination, her pupils included some of the main classical composers from the 20th century along with conductors like John Eliot Gardiner as well as composers who would go on to work in more popular vein. The songs were performed by Fredrik Lycke, a Swedish actor who performs regularly in musicals, with Anders Neglin (keyboards) and Andre Ferrari (percussion).

Grunewald Hall at the Stockholm Concert Hall
Grunewald Hall at the Stockholm Concert Hall
One of the Concert Hall's popular soup concerts is precisely just that. You arrive in the foyer of the Grunewald Hall and collect your bowl of soup, then find your place in the concert hall which is laid out like a canteen. Each place is numbered (no scrabbling for places) and there is water, light beer and coffee on the table along with bread. People arrive early or promptly which gives you 30 minutes to eat your soup and chat before the concert starts.

Fredrik Lycke proved a most appealing performer, and as someone with his own TV show (on children's TV, I think) he was adept at chatting to the audience too; in Swedish, so I was unable to grasp much, but he included information about Legrand, Bacharach and Boulanger as well as being entertaining. Vocally it was clear that Lycke was much influenced by Nat King Cole (no bad thing in this repertoire), though I was also aware that Lycke is an actor and so this vocal quality might have been assumed for the performance. No matter, it was very appealing, highly expressive, with a nice freedom in the upper range and the addition of a hint of Broadway bark gave a nice edge to the sound. He was fluidly accompanied by Neglin and Ferrari, the former playing a mixture of piano and synthesiser (mainly the synth), whilst the latter played an extended drum kit.

The songs ranged widely, and covered both the known and the lesser-known. Lycke had a tendency to perform them in groups, with medlies moving seamlessly from one song to another. He sang in English which was admirable for its clarity, diction and the way he was able to be expressive in the language. These are songs where the text comes first, and sung by a non-native singer it is important that the text retains priority, which it did. Lycke commented at one point that Bacharach's songs were easy on the listener and hard on the performer, but he never made the work show.

He was unaffectedly moving in such perennial hits as Alfie, which always takes on an interesting cast when sung by a man, whilst he brought some new hints to Rain drops keep falling on my head. What do you get when you fall in love was placed in the context of a fluent medley which kept you guessing.

The concert went down well with the audience (many of whom were probably of an age to remember the songs first time round) but it appealed to this review too.  Lycke brought a mixture of musicality and intelligence to the songs whilst he did not make the mistake of trying to make them too classical, these were proper products of musical theatre and treated as such with love and care. I gather that the concert was something of an innovation in the style of music at the soup concerts, but given the links to Nadia Boulanger made intriguing and appealing listening.

Medley -  Bacharach: The Windows of the World, Legrand: The Summer Knows, Bacharach: Alfie
Legrand: How Do You Keep the Music Playing?
Cross/Bacharach/Sager/Allen: I’ll Never Fall in Love AgainArthur’s Theme (Best that You Can Do)
Legrand: Love Makes the Changes
Bacharach: Raindrops Keep Fallin’
Legrand: No Matter what Happens

Elsewhere on this blog:

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