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Canberra Today 6°/7° | Friday, July 1, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

The unfamiliar world of 19th century singing

Tenor Koen van Stade.

Music / “Schubert Und Schiller”, Koen Van Stade, tenor, Neal Peres Da Costa, fortepiano. At Wesley Music Centre, Forrest, May 22. Reviewed by LEN POWER.

THE evolution of musical instruments and singing techniques over the centuries is an interesting field for research. It can be quite exciting to hear music played on early instruments and discover how vocal techniques have changed.

Neal Peres da Costa.

In their concert for Art Song Canberra, “Schubert and Schiller”, tenor Koen van Stade and pianist Neal Peres Da Costa, took the audience on a journey into the now unfamiliar world of 19th century singing.

Neal Peres Da Costa played a fortepiano, a replica grand piano from Franz Schubert’s time of the early 19th century. It has a smaller keyboard compared to a modern piano and produces a distinctively softer, but very clear sound.

Koen van Stade sang a number of Schubert songs from the period. He began with three “Wanderer” songs set to texts by different poets. They were superbly sung with great vocal control and feeling and it was immediately noticeable that he was using some unfamiliar vocal techniques.

Between songs he explained the techniques he was using and their historical significance. It added another dimension to this fascinating concert.

Audience members showed great interest in the fortepiano, inspecting it up close during the interval. Noting the audience’s interest, Neal Peres Da Costa gave a talk about the fortepiano and demonstrated its differences to the modern piano.

He then gave a sublime performance of Schubert’s “Impromptu No. 3”, a work familiar to audiences and a good choice to show the different sounds made by the fortepiano.

The main vocal part of the concert was the singing of two songs by Schubert set to epic poems by Friedrich von Schiller – “Die Bürgschaft” (The Pledge) and “Der Taucher” (The Diver). Both van Stade and Da Costa gave thrilling performances of these highly dramatic and complex works.

Peter Chandler, speaking to the audience for Art Sound Canberra, quipped that the works were “a bit more exciting than your average lieder”. He was right and the whole concert was also an unexpected and very pleasing immersion into 19th century music and singing.

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