Keenly­side’s re­ward­ing recital

Albany Times Union - - TV / ENTERTAINMENT - By Joseph Dal­ton ▶ Joseph Dal­ton is a free­lance writer based in Troy.

Bari­tone Si­mon Keenly­side played with tra­di­tion and deco­rum through­out his gen­er­ous and re­ward­ing recital Wed­nes­day night at Union Col­lege. The pro­gram was solidly grounded in Ger­man lieder, yet there were also sev­eral free­wheel­ing French song cy­cles from the first half of the 20th cen­tury.

As for the deco­rum, noth­ing out­landish took place. It’s just that

Keenly­side, who’s a trea­sured pres­ence on opera stages around the world, isn’t the kind of recital­ist who keeps his feet planted and his arms at rest. He used ever re­source to en­gage. Along with some wan­der­ing about, he reg­u­larly reached out to the au­di­ence with open hands and turned his face and body this way and that. More than once he used the sound of tak­ing in a breath as part of his tool book.

The best way Keenly­side grabbed the au­di­ence was with his com­mand­ing voice. This was one song recital where you didn’t need to sit close to get the full ef­fect. While some longer pe­ri­ods of in­ti­mate ex­pres­sion would have been nice, noth­ing was left on the ta­ble and you can’t com­plain about that.

In the opener, Schu­bert’s fi­nal cy­cle “Sch­wa­nenge­sang” (Swan Song) it was as if Keenly­side was bur­row­ing deep into the earth, his pow­er­ful jour­ney a mix of love and long­ing, de­jec­tion and de­spair. Pian­ist Mal­colm Martineau pro­vided a steady hori­zon of sound, un­fazed by the bari­tone’s fre­quent ex­pres­sive leaps.

The Brahms se­lec­tions af­ter in­ter­mis­sion were just as per­sua­sive. In “Nacht­wan­dler” (Sleep­walker) he sang with a fine legato a se­ries of lines that crested higher and higher. The ac­com­pa­ni­ment seemed to yawn. He ended the set with a kiss to­ward heaven.

Two sets by Poulenc were re­ward­ing nov­el­ties. The first con­sisted

of quick takes on seven mod­ern painters. It felt like a zoom through a gallery, more ver­bal than vis­ual. The sec­ond was more pic­turesque with de­pic­tions of city life and late night cabarets. “Avant le cin­ema” (Be­fore the cin­ema) showed that hip­sters aren’t unique to our time.

Keenly­side took ob­vi­ous de­light in Poulenc’s bar­rage of mu­si­cal, poetic and cul­tural data. He even drew out some con­tem­po­rary sar­casm from the trav­el­ogue ti­tled “1904.”

Ravel’s “His­toires na­turelles” was a ter­rific wrap-up, the best story telling of the night. The five songs were set­tings of prose, not po­etry and this al­lowed us to ex­pe­ri­ence even more of Keenly­side, who af­ter a tax­ing pro­gram was still burst­ing with en­ergy and singing with an un­blem­ished voice.

Keenly­side went fur­ther still with two en­cores, some hu­mor­ous Schu­bert and se­duc­tive Faure.

Keenly­side

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