29 September 2015

To them let us garlands bring

Nathan Lay and friends
Lieder Society of Victoria
30 September 2015
Richmond Uniting Church

It had to be a winner, did this recital.

Four musicians hand-picked from a pool of 70 contenders for the Victorian Opera-Melbourne Con. Master of Music degree and an expertly ‘curated’ (sorry, but that’s what it really was) program of English, Italian and German songs. Add to that mix two years of hard yakka: coaching and teaching, language and stagecraft and we had a concert where everyone knew their stuff and got on with it.

It was a relaxed and joyous affair, crowned – wait for it – by a standing ovation. The audience was a hard one: lieder groupies, people who knew the text by heart, who had firmly-held opinions on interpretation and dynamics. And into this den strode the four friends.

Nathan Lay and Simon Bruckard began with that luscious cycle of Gerald Finzi. Very English, with text from Shakespeare plays. Everyone in the church had the Bryn recording of course, but after a few seconds he’d been replaced by Nathan and Simon. That in itself is an indication of the musicianship of the two young men.

Nathan now has a rich baritone voice now expertly placed in his head to produce a sound that gently but firmly filled the space without any stress. It was a hard space to sing in and his opera-house power could easily have bullied us. He found the gentle soliloquies in Finzi’s songs and Simon walked beside him all the way. This was not opera. This was art song – crisp and clean and totally beautiful.

Michael ‘The Rabbit’ Petruccelli drew a complete change of pace: the randy Italian under the window with his guitar (I’ve never heard it called that before) but with Papa’s blunderbuss not far away.

He’d chosen songs that sat right in the middle of his range and he didn’t even think about his Italian-tenor-wobble-and-sob software. His pianissimo was beautifully controlled. His Torna a Surriento was an example masterful resistance – musicianship over histrionics. This was not just voice. It was brain and voice. And again, Simon provided the bedrock that the singer built on.

Was Matthew nervous? Recovering from a cold? There was no doubting his control of the difficult Strauss songs. I assume his German was faultless; Simon would have seen to that. But his voice didn’t have the richness I’d heard from him only a few weeks before.

Matthew has a voice that’s developed superbly in the two years of Vic Opera’s MoM program. He can handle Rossini on one hand and Strauss on the other. In spite of his voice difficulty, though ,we got the magic of these beautiful songs.

Everyone in the church had, no doubt, one song that grabbed them; that took them back to a wonderful place.

Once, when I knew nothing about RVW’s songs, I accompanied Lois for her A Mus A exam. Silent Noon was on her list. In spite of my ignorance loved it then. I do now and more so. Would Nathan find the summer heat, the dragon-fly hanging like a blue thread … from the sky?


But he didn’t have the quandary I had. Lois was prepared to marry me ‘if I would have her’.

Accompany? yes. Marry? no! So … moving right along …

The best was last.

‘Litanei’, Schubert. A rich, powerful, emotional song where baritone and piano need to be welded, totally integrated; smooth vocal lines on equal footing with carefully controlled pedalling. It was there. It was all there. Real grab-you-in-the-gut stuff.

I loved it.
Who is going to fund these blokes to do a Salon recital?

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