One of the most exciting elements of the Bendigo Chamber Music Festival is the showcasing of an outstanding singer. Last year renowned soprano Jacqueline Porter thrilled audiences with, among other performances, a superb Lieder recital; this year, another young soprano, Chloe Lankshear, gave a scintillating performance of Vivaldi’s cantata In Furore Iustissimae Irae for the Opening Gala and followed it up with a thoughtfully curated recital two days later.
In her introductory remarks, Lankshear thanked the audience for being “very brave” in coming to an 11am recital. Looking at the scheduled items, many would have thought it was even braver for a singer to undertake such an ambitious program at that hour, especially one that began with Strauss’s Amor – a taxing undertaking at the best of times. Fortunately, she has sufficient vocal agility and range to bring it off successfully for the most part. Lankshear’s choice was certainly justified in terms of coherent programming since her aim was to take us on a journey, following a path that began with Cupid and the follies of love, continued with the cares of love and with lovers who have gone mad (namely, Ophelia), and ended with poignant accounts of loss. On paper, it appeared to survey the gloomier aspects of love; in performance it was a varied and completely fascinating trip.
Although the recital was advertised as being one hour’s duration, there was only a little over half an hour of music. But it was enough. Porter’s recital had included a couple of solo piano items by Daniel de Borah; Lankshear wanted the audience to become immersed in the journey, refraining from applause so that the momentum from piece to piece could be more fully experienced.
In addition to vocal virtuosity and beauty of tone, Lankshear’s dramatic abilities were on display from the outset. Her tale of “Amor” was knowing and vivacious as she negotiated the coloratura demands of Strauss’s score. A change of pace came in “The cares of lovers” from Purcell’s Timon of Athens, with Lankshear’s warm tone caressingly melancholic even while incorporating the florid melismatic passages with ease. Then it was back to a spirited “Aux Langueurs D’Apollon” from Rameau’s Platée, Lankshear playfully interacting with both accompanist and audience as she tossed off the florid intricacies while Farid’s fingers danced across the keyboard in crisp accord.
Apart from the penultimate item, Ravel’s “Kaddish” – sung by Langshear with sincerity and composure, the remaining works came from early song cycles by Messiaen, Strauss and the American composer George Crumb. They were presented out of the usual sequence in the interests of narrative flow, beginning with “Le Sourire” from Messiaen’s “Trois Melodies”.
Strauss’s “Drei Lieder der Ophelia” is a favourite with sopranos who have the required vocal technique, musical sophistication and dramatic imagination to do justice to this extraordinary exploration of dissonant madness. Again, the pianist needs to be comparably skilled. (There is a revelatory example of Glenn Gould playing these pieces available on YouTube illustrating this point.) Technical assurance and musicality on the part of both artists underpinned a compelling depiction of the sudden mood swings and pathos of all three songs.
The recital ended with a very beautiful performance of Crumb’s “Let it be forgotten” from his “Three Early Songs”. One of Lankshear’s outstanding strengths is her ability to spin out a seamless legato line – sometimes at the expense of clearly articulated text; the final lingering phrase of “In a long forgotten snow” was a perfect example of her ability to create a strong sense of atmosphere with tone and line. Her wonderfully expressive singing of Messiaen’s “Pourquoi” was another, and she had a sensitive partner in Farid to assist in its creation.
Photo courtesy of Bendigo Chamber Music Festival.
Heather Leviston reviewed Bendigo Chamber Music Festival’s Morning Recital Series 2 – Chloe Lankshear and Amir Farid, streamed live from the Capital Theatre by Australian Digital Concert Hall on February 4, 2022.