DESKTOP
TABLET (max. 1024px)
MOBILE (max. 640px)
Return to Top
Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

SCRUTINY | Mezzo-Soprano Simone McIntosh Stays True To Her Growing Reputation

By Joseph So on December 6, 2017

Simone McIntosh, mezzo-soprano; Stéphane Mayer, piano (Photo: Chris Hutcheson)
Simone McIntosh, mezzo-soprano; Stéphane Mayer, piano (Photo: Chris Hutcheson)

Grieg: Sechs Lieder, Op. 48; Poulenc: Banalités; Berg: Sieben frühe Lieder; Bridge: Four Songs. Simone McIntosh, mezzo-soprano; Stéphane Mayer, piano. Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, Four Seasons Centre, 12 p.m. December 5, 2017.

Of the current crop of fresh young Canadian classical voices, mezzo Simone McIntosh has that rare quality that makes the listener sit up and take notice. She combines a beautiful, well focused, gleaming high mezzo with an innate theatricality that bodes well for the future.

I heard her for the first time about two years ago in a masterclass, if memory serves. On the program was “Nacht” from Berg’s Sieben frühe Lieder. Not only did she sing this difficult song very nicely, I recall that she wore a striking Klimt-inspired necklace, perfect for the Expressionist piece. How many voice students can one expect to have such a sophisticated sense of style, and a top-class voice?

Fast forward to November 2016, McIntosh won the COC Ensemble Studio Competition, which earned her a spot on the roster for the current season. To top it off, she also won the Wirth Vocal Prize from her alma mater, McGill University. Today’s noon hour concert was the result of the Wirth Prize win. With Elizabeth Wirth and other dignitaries from McGill in attendance, and with COC Ensemble Studio colleague Stephane Mayer at the piano, McIntosh gave a scintillating recital of songs by Edvard Grieg, Francis Poulenc, Alban Berg, and Frank Bridge.

True to her reputation as having a stylish stage persona, McIntosh appeared in a knockout black pantsuit, with a dramatic train, created by renowned Canadian fashionista Rosemarie Umetsu, who was in the audience. McIntosh started with Sech Lieder Op. 48 by Grieg. Composed in 1889, these songs are ruminations of love, life, and nature. The last song, “Ein Traum” is the biggest and the most popular of the cycle, almost operatic in scope. McIntosh’s voice bloomed beautifully here. Her instrument, while not huge, has a lively though not excessive vibrato.  More importantly, it has what the Italians call squillo or “ping” allowing it carry beautifully in a big house. An auspicious start to the program.

Simone McIntosh, mezzo-soprano; Stéphane Mayer, piano (Photo: Chris Hutcheson)
Simone McIntosh, mezzo-soprano; Stéphane Mayer, piano (Photo: Chris Hutcheson)

This was followed by a change of style, to the alternately languid and quick-silver Banalités by Poulenc. This composer’s musical idiom is uniquely his. Listening to these songs, I feel like I heard snatches of Les dialogues des Carmélites with its measured cadence and unique piano writing. The second song, “Hôtel,” you can almost smell the cigarette smoke!  If I were to nitpick, stylistically McIntosh needs a bit more variation in tone colours from the German songs, and a bit more playfulness in delivery in the Poulenc. That said, it was still lovely, particularly a vivid “Voyage à Paris.”

The third group was Sieben frühe Lieder (1905-08) by Alban Berg. If you hate 12-tone or are allergic to Alban Berg – you have nothing to fear with these songs!  While he was already a student of Schönberg at the time, he composed these songs in a very accessible, melodically inspired style. Sure, he pushes the borders of the already expanded tonality of the late Romantics, but it’s tonally “resolved” at the end of each song. The tessitura of these songs is quite low except for a couple of A naturals in “Die Nachtigall.”  It’s suitable for a low soprano or a high mezzo with an easy top. McIntosh sang these very beautifully, just an occasional tentative moment between the pianist and singer here and there notwithstanding. The piano accompaniment is very demanding, particularly the last two songs, “Liebesode” and “Sommertage.”  Pianist Stéphane Mayer paced well and was fully up to the technical demands of these pieces.

The recital concluded with four songs by Frank Bridge (1879-1941). The British composer seems to be undergoing a resurgence of sorts, with quite a few commercial recordings of his songs and plenty of live performances on Youtube. His “Love went a-riding” is particularly popular, often found on recital programs. McIntosh delivered it in bright, buoyant tone and exuberant spirit, beautifully matched by the playing of Mayer. The enthusiastic audience gave the two artists a generous ovation.

We Toronto opera fans are fortunate that we get to hear these artists at the beginning of their careers. These two have great futures ahead of them. In the meantime, be sure to catch their upcoming performances at the COC, especially the Ensemble Showcase on May 25, 2018.

#LUDWIGVAN

Want more updates on Toronto-centric classical music news and reviews before anyone else finds out? Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for all the latest.

 

Joseph So

Joseph So

Joseph So is Professor Emeritus at Trent University and Associate Editor of Opera Canada.He is also a long-time contributor to La Scena Musicale and Opera (London, UK). His interest in music journalism focuses on voice, opera as well as symphonic and piano repertoires. He appears regularly as a panel member of the Big COC Podcast.He has co-edited a book, Opera in a Multicultural World: Coloniality, Culture, Performance, published by Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group).
Joseph So
Joseph So

Joseph So

Joseph So is Professor Emeritus at Trent University and Associate Editor of Opera Canada.He is also a long-time contributor to La Scena Musicale and Opera (London, UK). His interest in music journalism focuses on voice, opera as well as symphonic and piano repertoires. He appears regularly as a panel member of the Big COC Podcast.He has co-edited a book, Opera in a Multicultural World: Coloniality, Culture, Performance, published by Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group).
Joseph So
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300
comments powered by Disqus

Ludwig Van Toronto

THE SCOOP | Watch Toronto Violinist Perform An Emotional "Danny Boy” With Renée Fleming At McCain Funeral

By Michael Vincent on September 2, 2018

Watch Renée Fleming, accompanied by fellow Canadian musician Edwin Huizinga, perform a beautiful rendition of the Irish classic "Danny Boy" at the funeral of Arizona Senator John McCain.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300

SCRUTINY | TSO Lets Berlioz Do The Talking In Season Opener

By Paul E. Robinson on September 21, 2018

Despite some welcome repertoire by Jacques Hétu and Hector Berlioz, the TSO's 2018/19 season opener offered some mixed results.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article

THE SCOOP | Ontario Government Cuts Music Education Funding For At-Risk Kids

By Anya Wassenberg on August 25, 2018

Ontario government has pulled a promised $500,000 in funding for at-risk children, sending Sistema Toronto scrambling just weeks before the start of the school year.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_low_590x300
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700

We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.