Friday 17 November 2017

Fables re-sung

Liszt, Schumann, Wolf, Caplet, Bennett; Anna Sideeris, Brian McAlea, Lara Marie Müller, Dylan Perez; re-sung at Bloomsbury Baptist Church
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Oct 13 2017
Story telling to the fore in this imaginative programme of fables

Pianist Dylan Perez' re-sung concert series presents young singers more casual, rush-hour concerts at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church. I caught the concert on Wednesday 15 November 2017 when baritone Brian McAlea, soprano Lara Marie Müller, soprano Anna Sideris and Dylan Perez presented Liszt's Die Lorelei, Schumann's Waldesgesprach, Wolf's Die Bekehre and Ganymed, Andre Caplet's Trois fables de Jean de la Fontaine and Richard Rodney Bennett's Songs before sleep, under the general theme of Fables.

And it was the feeling of story-telling which predominated in the recital.
First off, Anna Sideris and Dylan Perez gave us the Liszt, Schumann and Wolf, all prime examples of settings of German romanticism (Heine, Eichendorff and Goethe). With her vibrant toned voice, Sideris brought almost operatic drama and a nice sense of narrative to the Liszt, and she differentiated the characters beautifully in the Schumann, though her Loreley could perhaps have been more fearsome. The two Wolf settings were both enchanting, and here it was the fascinating harmonic world which I enjoyed with Perez making some lovely piano contributions.

Andre Caplet (1878-1925) was a close friend of Debussy and is known for his orchestrations of Debussy's music. His Trois Fables date from 1919, and in their settings of Jean de la Fontaine, Caplet's music approaches Ravel and Poulenc in the way the music follows the declamation of the words, with the piano providing some wonderfully descriptive atmosphere. Lara Marie Müller really entered into the story-telling spirit of the songs, acting out the characterful narratives in a highly engaging way, telling her stories both visually and vocally and creating some wonderful characters.

Finally baritone Brian McAlea gave us Richard Rodney Bennett's Songs before sleep which were written in 2005 for baritone Jonathan Lemalu. RRB sets six children's songs, taking the texts from classics such as Wee Willie Winkie and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star as well as lesser known ones, but giving the familiar words a completely new tune and interpretation. The result was quite often slightly disturbing, so the Wee Willie Winkie became very dark indeed, whilst Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was almost a Broadway ballad. McAlea was highly engaging throughout all six songs, using his vibrant baritone to good effect.

Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church is an attractive place for concerts, though the necessity of having the piano to one side under the balcony meant that the singers' work communicating with the audience was made more difficult, but all succeeded in drawing us in admirably. The church's glass screen might keep out the noise from the entrance hall, but it was rather distracting seeing people walking to and fro. The early evening format, with people able to slip in when the can, is an admirable one. But Wednesday's audience was on the select side, you felt that people have not quite discovered the church as a concert venue. The final concert in re-sung's Autumn series is on 29 November 2017 when Iuno Connolly, Nick Mogg and Dylan Perez will perform and all Schubert programme.

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