Review: A Celebration of Song with Zanne, Marc & Kathy

We went to the Baxter Theatre in Rondebosch on Wednesday night to experience a Celebration of Song by soprano Zanne Stapelberg, violinist Marc Uys and pianist Kathleen Tagg. The trio had given only one other performance of this show on Sunday, 23 August, at the Hugo Lambrechts Auditorium in Parow (see also here).

The first half of the programme began with three French songs performed by Zanne, to the lovely accompaniment of Kathy on the piano – “Après un rêve” (Gabriel Fauré), “Oh! Quand je dors” (Franz Liszt) and “Élégie” (Jules Massenet) – all melancholic and full of yearning for a love that was lost. Zanne’s beautiful and powerful soprano voice easily carried throughout the concert hall.

This was followed by a series of Hungarian Folktunes by Béla Bartók, which I did not enjoy that much; not only were the tunes entirely unfamiliar to me, but my ears objected to the many jarring notes that are such a feature of Bartók’s music.

The highlight of the first half for me was Amy Beach‘s lovely Romance for Violin and Piano; before leaving Marc and Kathy alone on stage to perform this, Zanne told us briefly about Amy Beach: Born in New England in 1867, she was a child prodigy and almost entirely self-taught, performing and composing music even before reaching the age of four. (!) After she got married at 18, her husband actively discouraged her from performing in recitals, and so she limited herself to composition, at home. It was only after her husband died in 1910, that she was able to tour Europe, performing her own compositions.

The first half ended with “L’amerò, sarò costante” (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart), a sweet declaration of faithfulness to the beloved .

After a short interval, all three artists were back on stage to perform four songs for voice and violin (“Jesu Sweet”, “My soul has nought but fire and ice”, “I sing of a maiden”, and “My Leman is so true”) by Gustav Holst. I was unfamiliar with these; they sounded like medieval religious poems, with echoes of plainsong.

They were followed by four love songs from Enrique Granados‘ “Colección de tonadillas”, namely “El majo discreto” (The discreet lover), “El majo timido” (The timid youth), “La maja dolorosa” (The desolate maiden) and concluding with the playful and rather cheeky, “El tra la la y el punteado” (The tralalala and the assertion).

Before the next group of pieces, all from Suite Populaire Espagnole by Manuel de Falla, Zanne explained that there was also an arrangement for the solo piano, and one for piano and high voice, which they could also have performed. But, she added with a cheeky smile, they had drawn straws, so Marc would be playing the violin arrangement that evening.

The performance ended with two beautiful love songs by Camille Saint-Saëns “Le Bonheur est chose légère” and the very passionate “Violons dans le soir”.

I thought the highlight of the entire show, quite ironically, was actually the encore – Astor Piazzolla‘s foot-stamping and dramatically expressive “Milonga de la Anunciación”. It was an unexpected and magnificent conclusion to their performance, which was duly rewarded with a standing ovation.

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