Polish and Shakespearean themes lead fine St Andrew’s lunchtime recital

Music for voice and solo piano

Eleanor McGechie, mezzo-soprano (item 1))
Gabriela Glapska (piano – accompanist and items 2 & 3)
Will King. Baritone (item 4)

André Tchaikowsky: Seven Sonnets of Shakespeare  (two songs)
Chopin: Preludes, Op.28 nos. 7-12; Ballade in F minor, Op.52 no.4
Gerald Finzi: Let us garlands bring, Op.18

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 4 April 2018, 12.15 pm

Shakespeare ‘book-ended’ the programme, with two sets of songs, separated by Chopin.  It made an interesting programme, featuring mainly the piano, but with pleasing songs to begin and end.

The pianist and composer André Tchaikowsky was not, we were told in the pianist’s introductory remarks, related to the great composer of the same name.  I remember him visiting New Zealand to play with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, a long time ago.  He was Polish, and died in 1982, at only 47 years of age.

He was apparently a great fan of Shakespeare.  The first sonnet, ‘To me, dear friend, you never can be old…’ was preceded by a long piano introduction.  Eleanor McGechie proved to have a rich voice, and especially gorgeous low notes.  She was well up to singing the wide range of pitch demanded by the song.  The second song, ‘So are you to my thoughts as food to life…’ had a calmer quality.

The song was moody in temperament at first, but later became sprightly, particularly in the piano part.  Both singers in the concert are students at the New Zealand School of Music – and therefore could be excused for using the scores rather than singing from memory.

The Chopin Preludes were skilfully and passionately played (though I counted five, not six).  The link here was Polish nationality, not only of André Tchaikowsky but also of Chopin and of our pianist at this concert.  There were both depth and sparkle in her playing, despite technical difficulties in the Preludes, and the Ballade, which apparently held no fears for her, though the Ballade was not faultless.  All Gabriela’s pieces were played without use of a score.

The Ballade began beguilingly, with poetic, beautiful passages.  The middle section is demanding and very fast, requiring great dexterity – which she has.  Her playing brought out the contrasts very well.  The latter part of the piece was also very fast; the notes shimmered, while maintaining the melodic line, power and forward movement   The pianism was very intense in this intricate music; an impressive performance despite the few flaws.

Gerald Finzi was a litterateur as well as a composer; his love of Shakespeare is depicted in his exquisite song cycle Let us garlands bring (the last line of the song ‘Who is Sylvia’) illustrates his superb word-setting.  The songs, with the plays in which they appear, are:

‘Come Away, Come Away, Death’ (Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene 4)
‘Who is Silvia?’ (The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act IV, Scene 2)
‘Fear No More the Heat o’ the Sun’ (Cymbeline, Act IV, Scene 2)
‘O Mistress Mine’ (Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene 3)
‘It Was a Lover and His Lass (As You Like It, Act V, Scene 3).

Will King enunciated the words very well, and he projected them with a lovely tonal quality.  The effect was magical in places.  In the first song, the opening chords on the piano presaged something ominous.  The next song was a complete contrast; ‘Who is Silvia’ has a cheerful mood.  The delightful running accompaniment adds to its endearing quality, especially the ending.

The performers did justice to this inspired song cycle.  Each word had its proper emphasis and phrasing.  The accompaniment’s dynamics were just right – Gerald Moore’s famous book title (‘Am I too loud?’) did not need to be uttered here.

Will King’s voice was fine, apart from some strain and rawness when singing fortissimo.  After the rather sombre ‘Fear no more the heat of the sun’ there was  return to joy with ‘O mistress mine’.  This could have been sung in a slightly lighter style and tone, and the piano could have done with less pedal for the sprightly final song.  Nevertheless – bravo to all three performers!



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