Thought-Provoking Concert in Honor of Bastille Day

“We wanted this recital to be beautiful even when the political
climate is so ugly,” said Jones, of the choice of French-song
centered evening.

And beauty the sopranos did indeed present with a highly ambitious,
challenging program that included Benjamin Britten, Gabriel Fauré,
Viktor Ullman, and a world premiere by composer Martha Sullivan.

Elise Brancheau began the program with Les Illuminations, op. 18
by Benjamin Britten. Brancheau oscillated between coy gaiety and deep
desperation in order to illustrate the pathos of poetry imbued with
pastoral playfulness and perverse paintings of human freakishness. Martin
Néron played the at-times perversely cheerful stylings of Britten with
aplomb, supporting Brancheau in a display of skillful duetting. Brancheau
navigated the difficult cycle with incredible breath control, musical
sensibility, and a shimmering instrument seemingly unphased by the
music’s many vocal challenges.

Brancheau’s performance of the world premiere of Lunaire by
Martha Sullivan also proved a success.

“The collaboration came about by chance,” said Brancheau of her
partnership with Sullivan. “She [Sullivan] reached out to me and said
she had always wanted to set these poems [by Albert Giraud].”

Sullivan’s music is lyric and sweeping, and clearly displays her
knowledge of the soprano voice. The piano moves between complex harmonies
while repeating haunting leitmotifs that linger in the mind long after each
musical phrase has ended. The vocal line deftly illustrates the eeriness of
each of Giraud’s poems with frequent moments of musical word
painting, supported by a thrusting piano part that almost evokes a more
sinister Debussy.

Shannon Jones collaborated with pianist Keith Chambers to present Cinq
Melodies “de Venise” by Gabriel Fauré. Jones brought a
lush and sensual interpretation to Fauré’s songs. Her second
selection, a set of Viktor Ullman songs setting the poetry of Louïse
Labé, displayed the full depth and range of Jones as a singer, as well
as Chambers as a pianist. Jones sang through two songs of unrelentingly
high tessitura with clear and striking vocal timbre, while Chambers ripped
through the difficult piano accompaniment with nearly unbelievable ease.

Ullman was a striking and poignant choice by Jones, who said of the
composer, “He and his works are a reminder of what we stand to lose
if we look at people as a race versus a being.”

The evening, skillfully handled by all the performers, was not impressive
merely for its excellent musical displays, but for the thoughtfulness of
programming and nuanced interpretation of beautiful and meaningful poetry.
Each artist had something to say throughout the course of the evening, and
the musical choices provoked emotion and discussion in a way that only a
meaningfully curated concert can.

Alexis Rodda

image_description=”The Storming of the Bastille” by Jean-Pierre HouÎl [Source: Wikipedia]
product_title=Thought-Provoking Concert in Honor of Bastille Day
product_by=A review by Alexis Rodda
product_id=Above: “The Storming of the Bastille” by Jean-Pierre HouÎl [Source: Wikipedia]