Songs by Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg, Viktor Ullmann, Alma Mahler, Alexander Zemlinskty, Erik Korngold / In a darkish blue evening (Canadian Premiere of Track Cycle by Alex Weiser). Sara Schabas, soprano; Isabelle David piano; Robin Elliott, narration. Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, 4 Seasons Centre, January ninth 2024.
Since 2005, January 27 of every yr has been designated because the Worldwide Day of Commemoration, within the reminiscence of the victims of the Holocaust. It was on that day in 1945 that the Auschwitz-Birkenau focus camp was liberated. A complete of six million folks died through the Nazi period between 1933 and 1945.
Canadian musicians are remembering this present day by way of music. This yr, the Likht Ensemble’s Jaclyn Grossman and Nate Ben-Horin will give a live performance, The Shoah Songbook, to commemorate the Worldwide Holocaust Remembrance Day. Prematurely of that’s this memorable recital final Tuesday, given by Canadian soprano Sara Schabas and pianist Isabelle David, with narration by College of Toronto musicologist Professor Robin Elliott.
Regardless of the inclement climate, the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at midday was jammed. On this system have been songs by six composers — Alban Berg, Arnold Schönberg, Viktor Ullmann, Alma Mahler, Alexander Zemlinsky, and Erik Korngold, most of them Jewish, who lived below the oppression of the Nazi period, a few of them escaped to America, whereas Ullmann sadly perished in a focus camp.
The viewers benefitted enormously from the vastly informative speak given by College of Toronto musicologist Professor Robin Elliott. Some songs are well-known and incessantly featured on recital packages, comparable to Alban Berg’s Sieben fruhe Lieder and Arnold Schönberg’s Brettl-Lieder. Each cycles characterize a method greatest described as a form of expanded tonalities early within the two composers’s careers, earlier than reworking into true atonality.
Schabas’s superbly clear, mild lyric soprano did full justice to those songs. Her rendition of Marietta’s Lied was a spotlight. It’s after all from Korngold’s Die tote Stadt, arguably the best-known work on this system. Her smooth mezza voce and excessive piano have been wonderful on this pretty aria. She sang one different piece by Korngold, “When birds do sing” from his cycle 4 Shakespeare Songs, additionally properly delivered, albeit with a bent to suppress the consonants, making her English lower than clear.
Along with singing songs of useless composers, Schabas additionally programmed In a Darkish Blue Evening, by the younger Jewish American composer Alex Weiser. Set to Yiddish texts, it’s an ode to New York Metropolis, a spot the place quite a lot of Jewish immigrants settled. It’s fairly a hanging cycle of 5 songs that requires repeated listening to to totally recognize, which is feasible due to YouTube.
I’d be remiss if I miss the superb collaborative piano of Isabelle David, who had the unusual potential of being a supportive pianist but additionally take the highlight when known as for, comparable to in a couple of prolonged piano passages within the songs. The appreciative viewers gave the artists an enormous hand, they usually have been rewarded with a shock encore — the 1930’s hit “I bought rhythm” from Lady Loopy by Gershwin! A cheery finish to a stunning live performance on a wintry day.
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