Aivale Cole with splendid Lieder for the St Andrew’s series

Schumann: Frauenliebe und -leben
Duparc: L’Invitation au voyage, Chanson
Triste Tosti: Quattro Canzoni d’Amaranta

John Carter: Cantata

Aivale Cole, soprano, Sharolyn Kimmorley, piano

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Saturday, 12 March 2011, 7.30pm

It was delightful to hear Aivale Cole singing lieder and other songs, but it was a great pity that so few thought so. Insufficient advertising may be partly to blame, since I have discovered that several people I thought would be interested in these artists and the programme were unaware of the performance. Certainly the Schumann song cycle was heard recently, sung by Joanna Heslop, at the National Portrait Gallery, but such a wonderful sequence of songs is worth hearing again, especially when sung by a singer with such a different style of voice.

I regretted the advertised Debussy and Hahn songs were no longer on the programme. Duparc was certainly an ample substitute.

One of the great things about this recital was that there were brief programme notes, and all the words were printed (including the words of a verse in the sixth song that Schumann did not set – he may have felt too embarrassed to set words about pregnancy that translate as ‘About the signs I have already asked Mother; my good mother has told me everything… she has assured me that by all appearances, soon a cradle will be needed.’)

Again, we had a superb accompanist who produced no clatter from the St. Andrew’s platform floor.

Aivale Cole’s voice and presentation were warm and lovely, with beautiful nuances. Early on, breathing was a little noisy at times, but this was overcome. She produced an exemplary precision with words, and lots of expression, but neither detracted from the flow or the tone. Consonants fitted in their place, but were never over-emphasised. She was never too hurried; always the words and mood came across without fuss. Cole used the scores for most of the music, except the Carter, but was never tied to them.

The performers were thoroughly rhythmic; the rhythm was not too strict, but always illuminated Schumann’s gorgeous music and the poet’s romantic words.

The beautiful piano postlude to the work was played in a restrained manner, more quietly than usual, portraying perhaps the resignation of the protagonist following the death of her husband – conveying the final words ‘I withdraw silently into myself, the veil falls, there I have thee and my lost happiness, O thou my world!’

It was a delight to hear two of Duparc’s incomparable songs. These were beautifully sung, but not quite as expressively as I have heard them. In the first, ‘L’invitation au voyage’ there was not the sense of delighted surprise that is represented in the words. Cole’s French pronunciation was as good as her German.

In the languorous ‘Chanson Triste’, the singer caressed the sensuous words beautifully (though ‘genoux’ did not come out quite right). I could happily have listened to more Duparc, or Fauré, or Debussy, but we turned now to Italian, and Tosti.

The four songs were new to me. Aivale Cole’s thrilling tone and delivery made them very effective, if sentimental. I found the postlude to the songs a little over-pedalled, especially through the rests, for my taste, as indeed was the Schumann postlude. Sharolyn Kimmorley is a very still pianist, and turns all the pages herself.

John Carter’s cantata brings together four Negro spirituals: “Peter, Go ring o’ dem bells”, “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child”, “Let us break bread together”, “Ride on King Jesus”. These settings were very lively, and set in different ways. The first was imaginative, but contained a lot of repetition. There was a magical sustained top note. The second was set, and sung, with much feeling, while the fourth was very jazzy with a very fast and complicated accompaniment. It made for a dramatic ending to the recital, in English, the fourth language to be used.

The range of the programme was good, and the execution superb.

My friend and I left the church well satisfied. What was our surprise to hear someone calling ‘Excuse me!’, and to find running after us along the footpath Aivale Cole (in mufti now), who thanked us for attending, and said she wanted to speak to everyone! She told us that she is off to London next month. We wished her the very best for this venture, and hope that she will get the opportunities she so richly deserves in what is now a difficult economic environment, with opera houses closing, contracts not being fulfilled, and fees dropping rather than increasing.

Go well, Aivale!

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