Ravel: Cinq mélodies populaires grecques; Tchaikovsky: Kuda, kuda; Liszt: Die Lorelei; Schumann: Waldesgespräche; Schubert: Erlkönig; Ridout: Folk Songs of Eastern Canada; Copland: Old American Songs. Marcel d’Entremont, tenor; Dakota Scott-Digout, piano. Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, Four Seasons Centre, 12 p.m., November 28, 2019.
One of the autumn highlights of the COC’s Free Concert Series is the Wirth Vocal Prize Recital, an award endowed by Elizabeth Wirth, to be given each year to the outstanding singer of the Schulich School of Music at McGill University. Last year, I heard a scintillating recital given by soprano Anna Sophie Neher, who has been dazzling audiences as a member of the COC Ensemble.
The winner this year was tenor Marcel d’Entremont, whom I first heard as a participant in masterclasses at the Toronto Summer Music Festival several years ago. He showed great promise then, and judging by his recital, his artistic trajectory continues to be impressive. With Ms. Wirth and other McGill dignitaries in attendance, he clearly demonstrated that he’s fully deserving of the prestigious Prize.
It was a generous program of songs and arias in French, German, Russian, and English. His voice sounded robust and ringing, not to mention large. Not a big guy, but you’d never guessed by the sounds he makes. His communicative ability and attention to textual nuance are both outstanding. Very well spoken, d’Entremont expressed his gratitude to Ms. Wirth, the organizers, and the COC for their generosity.
Then it was down to business. He began with Ravel’s Five Greek Songs, very well-known and often programmed in recitals. The tenor sang these with robust, buoyant tone and vivid imagination. On the piano was a long-time collaborator, pianist Dakota Scott-Digout. This was the first time I’ve heard him play, and I was extremely impressed by his virtuoso technique and requisite poise. A great start to the recital.
This was followed by Lensky’s great “Kuda, kuda” from Eugene Onegin. One of the loveliest lyric tenor arias, it requires the requisite plaintive sound and a certain melancholia in the delivery. The singer needs a beautiful timbre and a true mezza voce, especially for the da capo section. D’Entremont has the refulgent tone, while his mezza voce is more of a work in progress. Given his youth, it’s bound to come.
Of the three German Lieder, I was most impressed with Erlkonig. Kudos to both d’Entremont and Scott-Digout for a bravura performance. The tenor was superb delineating the four voices — the son, the father, the Erlkonig, and the narrator. It was as good as any I’ve heard, and I’ve heard a lot of them in over fifty years! There was a dramatic urgency that’s perfectly placed. Scott-Digout was the perfect collaborative pianist, showing his dazzling technique but never taking the spotlight from the singer.
One doesn’t encounter Godfrey Ridout’s arrangements of the Folk Songs of Eastern Canada on the recital stage all that often, which is a shame. Gorgeous songs, delightful, tonal, evocative, melodically inspired, folksy but not saccharine. All nicely delivered but I loved “She’s like the swallow” which d’Entremont delivered with feeling and ingratiating tone.
The recital wrapped up with three of Aaron Copland’s Old American Songs, very impressively rendered. “I bought me a Cat” is often sung as a humorous encore piece, deceptively simple and “easy” while it’s not easy at all. I’ve heard singers got tripped up by the text! D’Entremont was virtually perfect in his performance. I only wished he had included “Simple Gifts,” the Shaker hymn arranged by Copland, given it was American Thanksgiving on Thursday. But what he did sing was enormously enjoyable. I predict this singer will go far.