This recital took place on 31 July 2016 and formed a part of the Unisa Music Foundation concert series for classical music. Unisa invites mainly overseas artists to present concerts in this series and ours was one of the few exceptions to this rule. The same core programme, slightly shortened and altered to adapt to the required format of the various concert series, was also performed in Knysna on 14 March 2016 and at a lunch hour concert in the Musaion (UP) on 7 April 2016. As part of my project to promote interest in the Art Song genre in South Africa, I present recitals in various centres across the country, during which I often add other music genres to the programme mix. Good programming is almost an art form in itself and there are as many themes or points of departure for inspiration as there are programmes. In this case it was Love and devotion. When deciding on a programme it is essential to consider the context within which the concert will take place, as well as the audience for whom one will perform. During the planning stage I attempt to find a balance by including well-known and accessible works as well as introducing the audience to lesser-known works. It is also of importance to ensure that there is sufficient variety within a programme to keep the interest and attention of the listener. I knew that groups of singing students from UP and TUT attend the Unisa concert series and most of my own students attended the lunch hour concert. It was important to me that my choice of music would be of some pedagogical value to these young singers. This was a long and exceptionally varied concert programme, including music from the second half of the 17th century (Baroque period) to the mid-20th century, featuring not only art songs, but also opera and operetta, while including six languages: Italian, French, German, Swedish, English and Afrikaans. This was my first attempt at singing in Swedish, which required many coaching sessions to achieve a level of diction which would reflect the cadences, modulations and phrasings of the language and would enable me to deliver a believable interpretation of the text.
A great deal of scholarly research was needed to be true to the performance practices of the various time periods, such as the distinction between the clear tonal colour and melismatic singing of the Baroque and the warmth, sensuality and often extended phrases required in the compositions of Hahn, Strauss, Sibelius and Barber. For the Baroque pieces I had to write ornamentation appropriate both to the period and my own vocal abilities, which would enhance and not impede the meaning and intention of the text. In addition to art songs, arie antiche, or early (mostly) Italian arias, form part of any classical singer’s training. Due to the difficulties and struggles that they invariably experience during the process of developing a healthy technique, they often do not realise how beautiful, exhilarating and touching these works are. My aim is to stimulate interest in and excitement for this music.
Further technical challenges inherent in the programme included the wide vocal range of the music, from the low tessitura and dynamic range of the Hahn songs to the coloratura and soaring extreme high notes of the Dell’Acqua. Performing a programme which consists of such diverse works that were not written to be performed together, without an obvious or logical storyline such as inherent in an opera or song cycle, demands a high level of flexibility and concentration as well as a great deal of stamina, as the singer has to negotiate constant change of style, language and emotion. As great as these and other technical challenges may be, this should not be obvious to the listener, who must be allowed to sit back, relax and enjoy the music while the performer, who is a musical storyteller, communicate directly with the audience and thus transport them to different worlds. The listener who leaves the recital should be a different person from the one who walked in before the recital.
This has been performed at Miriam Makeba Concert Hall, Unisa; Musaion, UP; DR Church Hall, Knysna