Monday 5 December 2016

Winning charm: Raphaela Papadakis & Sholto Kynoch in cabaret mode in Clapham

Sholto Kynoch and Raphaela Papadakis- photo courtesy of Helen Abbot
Sholto Kynoch and Raphaela Papadakis
photo courtesy of Helen Abbott
Poulenc, Satie, Marx, Schoenberg, Lehar; Raphaela Papadakis, Sholto Kynoch; Omnibus Clapham
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Dec 4 2016
Star rating: 4.0

Delightful evening of cabaret-inspired songs

Omnibus in Clapham is our local arts centre so it was delightful to be able to walk there on Sunday (4 December 2016) to catch a recital by soprano Raphaela Papadakis accompanied by pianist Sholto Kynoch. They gave us a programme cabaret-inspired songs with music by Francis Poulenc, Eric Satie, Joseph Marx, Arnold Schoenberg and Franz Lehar. And as it was a more casual programme, the concert took place in the bar which created a nicely relaxed environment with a surprisingly sympathetic acoustic.

Raphaela Papadakis is a young British soprano whom we heard in Independent Opera's production of Simon Vosecek's Biedermann and the Arsonists (see my review), but whom we had not heard in recital. She sang the recital from memory, and was delightfully communicative, she also introduced the items in a charmingly natural way despite the audience being close at hand. The pianist Sholto Kynoch is the artistic director of the Oxford Lieder Festival (see my interview with Sholto).

Papadakis and Kynoch started with a group of Poulenc songs. The first two Voyage a Paris and Hotel, from Banalites, were Poulenc in lighter lyrical vein rather than cabaret, whilst the final one Les chemins d'amour was written for the actress Yvonne Printemps. Papadakis sang them with a great sense of character, and charm, combining the richness of her voice with a nice lyricism. She sang them on the voice rather more than some singers, emphasising the lyric line rather than the text. In Hotel there was a lovely smoky timbre, whilst Les chemins d'amour had an enchanting edge to the tone.

Eric Satie followed, with a pair of his music hall songs La Diva de L'Empire and Je te veux. These are easy to get wrong, but we started with characterful rhythm in the piano from Sholto Kynoch and a light but characterful touch from Papadakis. She created a delightfully seductive line in the second song, and in both there was a lovely sense of her sparkling eyes communicating with the audience.

The songs of the Austrian composer Joseph Marx might not seem obvious in this company, but the combination of his lyrical melodies with lush harmonies fitted well. Un gestern hat er mir Rosen gebracht  was an expressionist waltz ith rich harmonies, to which Papadakis brought a charming sense of personality. (Rather naughtily I wanted to pair it with the song Someone sending me flowers).  Both performers brought a feeling of languorous calm to Selige Nacht, eventually rising to intense passion. Venezianiches Wiegenlied had a light, enchanting texture with some complex harmonies, we were aware that Marx lived in the same late-Romantic world as Wolf, Strauss and early Schoenberg, but combined the rich harmonic structure with great tunes. Finally, Hat dich die Liebe beruhrt which was the most Straussian of the songs.

That Schoenberg wrote cabaret songs might seem a surprise, But as a young man his musical tastes were varied, and besides arranging Johann Strauss waltzes he had a brief association with a famous Berlin literary cabaret and wrote a group of songs the Brettl Lieder, We heard Galathea, Gigerlette, Der genusame Liebhaber and Seit ich so viele Weiber sah. Sholto Kynoch's rich yet fluid piano complemented Papadakis's light touch in these songs, both with plenty of power in reserve for the more intense moments; this is Schoenberg flirting with cabaret, and he can rarely stay entirely light for long. In Gigerlette,  Papadakis showed a lovely sense of story telling, and made this highly suggestive in Der genugsame Lieberhaber, whilst Seit ich so viele Weiber could almost have been Lehar. The songs were often highly suggestive, but perhaps because a woman was singing the man's part this made it more acceptable.

Papadakis and Kynoch finished with real Lehar, Meine Lippen sie kussen so heiss from Giuditta, one of Lehar's largest scale piece which premiered in 1934 with Richard Tauber. Here Papadakis was a real delight, teasingly sexy whilst using a nice combination of text, line and edge to her tone. It was a lovely way to finish the recital.

The programme was more lunch-time recital length than an evening programme, and it was shame that having made such a striking success with the Lehar song, the performers had not prepared an encore or two. But throughout the evening, Raphaela Papadakis displayed a lovely sense of personality with a very winning way of putting over the songs, and always finely supported and complemented by Sholto Kynoch's piano playing.

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