La Scena Musicale

Monday, 30 March 2015

Burrage and Frazer Bid Adieu in Superb Recital (Review)

Burrage and Frazer Bid Adieu in Superb Recital 

Joseph So

Schubert / Der Einsame
                 Nacht und Traume
                 Auf der Bruck
                 Lied eines Schiffers an die Dioskuren

Brahms / Die Nonne und der Ritter

Mahler / Ruckert-Lieder
               Ich atmet' einen linden Duft
               Liebst du un Schonheit
               Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder
               Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen
               Um Mitternacht

Gounod / Barcarola

Charlotte Burrage, mezzo
Clarence Frazer, baritone
Jennifer Szeto, piano

Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, March 26, 2015 12:00 pm

Clarence Frazer and Charlotte Burrage (Photo: Chris Hutcheson)

As a follower of all things COC, I must say it's always wonderful to see how the young artists in the Ensemble Studio develop during their tenure here. But at the same time it fills me with sadness when they leave the nest and venture forward to forge a career. So it was with mixed emotions that I attended the noon hour recital. I came away with a feeling of satisfaction, knowing that both mezzo Charlotte Burrage and baritone Clarence Frazer are ready, willing and able to make their respective marks in the musical world.

Baritone Clarence Frazer (Photo: Chris Hutcheson)

The  recital began with a group of Schubert sung by Frazer, five of the best known pieces. Whether it was joyful or sad, fast or slow, Frazer sang with firm tone and vivid expression. I have to say that over the course of his time at the COC, Frazer has developed tremendously.  A good voice to begin with, it has grown in refinement and musicality. To my ears, he's really singing very well these days, better than at any time during his tenure here. There was a time when his lower range has a too pronounced vibrato, but he seems to have fixed that. At the same time, his top voice is blooming more than ever.  These Schubert songs were dispatched with robust tone and fine expression - his Auf der Bruck was particularly nice, with pianist Jennifer Szeto offering perfect support. The acid test was of course the highly operatic Erlkoenig, which he sang with rich tone and very good textual nuance. There are four "voices" in the piece - the boy, the father, the Erl-King, and the narrator. Frazer was able to modify his delivery to separate the four characters, although he could do it even a bit more. Given Frazer's voice seems to be moving up, the father's lines are less than ideally solid, but other than that, it was beautifully done.  Jennifer Szeto mentioned that this was her first Erlkoenig - well, it could have fooled me. She was fully up to the fearsome technical challenges of the piece and played marvelously well.
Mezzo Charlotte Burrage (Photo: Chris Hutcheson)

This was followed by one of Brahms' great duets for low voices, The Nun and the Knight. I've always enjoyed this song, so very Brahms! And the text is so Gothic!  I feel like I am in Flying Dutchman or an Emily Bronte novel.  Burrage and Frazer sang it very expressively if a touch heavily - but then that's the nature of the beast, ie Brahms Lieder!  Well done.  Then it was Burrage's turn to shine, in five of the Ruckert songs, leaving out Revelge and Der Tamboursg'sell. These are very spiritual songs, and Burrage sang them with poise and repose. The mezzo has a lovely, rich, distinctive timbre, which I find ideal in the German things. She sang all five songs with beauty, poise and expressivity. The first, Ich atmet' einen linden Duft was lovely. I think she's best in the slower songs, it gives her lively vibrato some breathing room. My desert-island song, Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen was delivered with an admirable Zen-like quality. Her voice has quite a bit of metal which allows it to carry, but perhaps in this song, a bit more hushed quality in the last line with its ppp high G would have been icing on the cake.  All in all, it was an impressive showing by Burrage, and I can really see her as an Octavian and Komponist in the not too distant future.   

Burrage and Frazer in duet from Il barbiere di Siviglia (Photo: Chris Hutcheson)

To vigorous applause, Burrage and Frazer offered two duets - the Figaro-Rosina duet from Il barbiere di Siviglia, and from Oklahoma - the delightful "People will say we're in love."  And delightful they were!  Frazer is a bit of a "ham" which is of course perfect in this repertoire. The two acted it out with lots of charm and panache, together with beauty of tone and impeccable diction.  They were so charming that one could easily believe they were in love. All this bodes well for these two young artists.  And I mustn't forget the collaborative pianist Jennifer Szeto who outdid herself in her beautiful playing today. Bravi tutti!

If you missed this concert, you can catch these two as Figaro and Rosina in the special Ensemble Performance of Il barbiere di Siviglia on May 15. Also, Charlotte will be the Gypsy in the upcoming Janacek song cycle Diary of One Who Disappeared, with tenor Owen McCausland.

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