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Excellent and well prepared program of song

Ronan Apcar, piano, with Jack Stephens, bass . Photo: Peter Hislop

Music / “Der Doppelgänger”, Luminescence SoloSeries 2. At The Drill Hall Gallery, June 3. Reviewed by TONY MAGEE.

BASS singer Jack Stephens and pianist Ronan Apcar acquitted themselves most admirably in this excellent and well prepared program of song, thoughtfully interspersed with stanzas from the poem “The Other” by Anne Sexton (1928 – 1974).

The Luminescence SoloSeries brings forth five core artists to showcase their skills as vocal soloist.

“Zueignung Op. 10” by Richard Strauss is one of his most beloved songs and Stephens and Apcar performed it with lyrical beauty. Opting for a measured and thoughtful pace, the piece had a lovely flow with excellent dynamic contrasts building to a definitive climax. Stephens was at his best in this.

“Erlkönig” by Schubert is one of his most famous lieder, also one of the most difficult to portray convincingly. 

The two artists did a brilliant job with this, the piano encapsulating the galloping horse convincingly, speeding its way through the night as a father desperately seeks medical help for his critically ill infant son.

Apcar’s choice of triple forte in some parts of the accompaniment were certainly valid, although at risk of drowning out the singer at times.

Whilst most of the vocal program in this recital was arranged for bass and piano, one that was actually written for that register is Brahms’ “Denn es gehet dem Menschen Op. 121, No. 1”, from his “Four Serious Songs”.

Both artists captured the foreboding elements of death, the transience of life and oppression convincingly, Stephens’ German pronunciation and diction, as with the Schubert, being excellent.

In the second of two pieces for solo piano, Apcar tackled Busoni’s arrangement of “Siegfried’s Funeral March” by Wagner.

He played it brilliantly, achieving a dark and sombre mood with the opening phrases, paraphrasing what would normally be double basses, morphing into a singing tone for the melodic phrases later in the piece.

In “Der Doppelgänger D957” from Schubert’s song cycle “Schwanengesang”, Stephens captured the climax of the piece well, portraying the moment when he realises a stranger is his Doppelgänger.

Dropping back to pianissimo, both pianist and singer definitively secured the ending, where the song’s subject realises he has in fact not returned from the war.

Closing with “Fear no more the heat o the sun Op. 18” by Gerald Finzi (1901 – 1956), it was a creditable performance, although revealing that Stephens needs some work on his English diction

Seeing ones own Doppelgänger in mythology implies you may be dead. In stark contrast, these two young artists are bursting with youthful exuberance, at the beginning of their careers, with lots more development to come. We wait with great expectations.

 

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