Seven voice students from Victoria’s school of music present varied and well delivered recital

Classical Voice Students of the New Zealand School of Music, Victoria University
Accompanied by David Barnard, head accompanist and vocal coach

Simon Hernyak: ‘O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion’ (Messiah – Handel); ‘In the silence of the secret night’ (Rachmaninov)
Shaunagh Chambers: ‘Mein gläubiges Herze’ (Bach, BWV 68); ‘Stopping by woods on a snowy evening’ (Ned Rorem)
Zoe Stocks: ‘Zeffiretti lusingieri’ (Idomeneo – Mozart); ‘Adieu notre petite table” (Manon – Massenet)
Emily Yeap: ‘Batti, batti’ (Don Giovanni – Mozart); ‘Silent Noon’ (Vaughan Williams)
Samuel McKeever: ‘Vous qui faites l’endormie’ (Faust – Gounod); ‘Sorge infausta una procella’ (Orlando – Handel)
Jennifer Huckle: ‘Soupir’ (Ravel); ‘En vain, pour éviter’ (Carmen – Bizet)
Elian Pagalilawan: ‘Widmung’ (Schumann); ‘Chanson Triste’ (Duparc)

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday 16 September, 12:15 pm

Here was one of the frequent recitals by Victoria University’s school of music’s students – this time voice students: two second years, the rest third years.

Rather than plod through the two songs each by the seven singers, it might be interesting to regard it as a concert that drew music of various kinds, chronologically, from 300 years of European music. I’ll start with the earliest:

From Bach’s Cantata no 68, Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt, Shaunagh Chambers sang ‘Mein gläubiges Herze’, a warm and joyous aria that she sang well, if in a rather uniform manner, rhythmically and dynamically. Then two Handel arias: Simon Hernyak with ‘O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion’ from Messiah and Samuel McKeever with ‘Sorge infausta una procella’ from the opera Orlando. Simon’s voice in the Messiah aria was attractive though perhaps too quiet and unvarying to enliven the aria’s sense very well. ‘Sorge infausta…’ is hardly over-familiar: the magician Zoroastro intervenes in the story from Ariosto’s famous Renaissance epic, Orlando furioso. It was a well-placed and striking, resonant aria to bring the recital to its end.

Mozart represented the latter 18th century. From Idomeneo, Zoe Stocks sang the charming ‘Zeffiretti lusingieri’ in her attractive voice that captured the feeling of the breeze rustling the garden. Emily Yeap chose the very different placatory aria that Zerlina sings to Masetto in Don Giovanni, ‘Batti batti’, displaying a good upper register; though its complex emotional sense somewhat eluded her.

I’d have welcomed more German Lieder: Schumann’s hugely popular ‘Widmung’ to a poem by Rückert (‘Du meine Seele, du mein Herz’) in the large Op 25 collection, Myrthen, represented the period well. It’s one of the best loved of the abundant riches of Schumann’s songs and Elian Pagalilawan’s approach, in vocal quality and feeling was a lovely fit.

Gounod’s Faust comes next chronologically; it was Samuel McKeever’s first song and his distinctive bass proved a convincing vehicle for Mephistopheles’s ‘Vous qui faites l’endormie’, with a cruel, mocking laugh. Fifteen years later came Bizet’s Carmen from which Jennifer Huckle sang convincingly, ‘En vain, pour éviter’, her awakening to her fate as revealed by the cards: each word carefully enunciated.

Staying in France, Manon by Massenet provides the touching soprano aria, ‘Adieu notre petite table”, that captures her self-aware fickleness; some lack of verbal clarity was not really a problem.

Duparc has a very special place in French song, or ‘Mélodie’, in spite of the very few songs that survived his self-criticism. ‘Chanson triste’. Elian Pagalilawan sang with a calm, nicely projected voice that captured its poetic character. Staying in France, mezzo Jennifer Huckle sang Ravel’s ‘Soupir’ (one of the Trois poèmes de Mallarmé, originally with instrumental accompaniment), handling both the lower range and some high passages, as well as the second more vivid part, comfortably, in a calm voice that suited the music very well.

Vaughan Williams and Rachmaninov were also, like Ravel, born in the 1870s. Vaughan Williams’s ‘Silent Noon’, a setting of a Rossetti poem, and Emily Yeap here found a setting that suited her voice a little better than ‘Batti batti’ had. She sang calmly, capturing lovers in the romantic countryside very effectively.

The Rachmaninov song was ‘In the silence of the secret night’; like others, she carefully named the poets of each piece, an admirable practice that I have always believed important to be aware of. It applies even more to opera librettists. Even if one has never heard of the poet, as I hadn’t of Afanasy Afanasyevich Fet; but he’s interesting to pursue in Wikipedia or your encyclopedia. Her dealing with this song was rather more nicely controlled and atmospheric than had been her Messiah aria earlier.

Finally, the mid-20th century was represented by American composer Ned Rorem who seems to be still alive at 96. I’ve come across him before, perhaps in student recitals, and he’d made an impression on me. So did this song, to a Robert Frost poem, the musical setting clear-sighted. The programme leaflet named the tutors of each singer (another admirable practice), and Jenny Wollerman’s name was by Shaunagh Chambers’ who sang Rorem’s attractive song; I could hear Wollerman’s voice and influence clearly enough in both the song and in her student’s performance.

I very much enjoyed this recital, as much for the performances, the admirable accompaniments by the school’s vocal coach, David Barnard, and the choice and range of songs as for each singer’s efficient movement on and off: no waiting, no delays; fourteen songs in just 45 minutes.


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