REBECCA PAULDING —Tuesday nights are usually pretty quiet on the UBC campus, but last Tuesday night was an exception. British baritone Simon Keenlyside and his co-recitalist, pianist Malcolm Martineau, stormed the Chan Centre presented by the Vancouver Recital Society, giving the responsive audience a night to remember. This night also marked Keenlyside’s debut performance in Vancouver, and I was one of the many who experienced some of the most beautiful and rapturous singing ever to descend upon the critical ears and watchful eyes of young and old alike.
Keenlyside is often praised for his dynamic vocal ability. Although his lyric baritone veers on the lighter side at times, there is “power to spare when he needs it, and an extensive range of beguiling colours” (David Gordon Duke – Vancouver Sun). Keenlyside’s dramatic and sensitive interpretation of each piece was echoed in Malcolm Martineau’s playing. Martineau gave just the right amount of tonal support for each phrase, which created a marvelous relationship between singer and pianist. The mighty duo took the audience on an intimate journey of Mahler, Butterworth, Strauss, Duparc and Debussy. Keenlyside’s conversation with the audience before launching into his “A Shropshire Lad” set gave new meaning to the English poems, and displayed his passion and dedication in communicating the text. Martineau’s great attention to detail, and ability to dramatically elaborate during interludes, was clearly evident during Debussy’s “Les Angelus” as well as “Nuit d’étoiles.” Keenlyside’s physical interpretation was quite natural and somewhat casual, although never distracting from the exquisite poetry or his beautifully spun pianissimo. Because of this, audience members felt like they were happening upon something totally organic and natural – like a “living room atmosphere.” Keenlyside and Martineau maintained this “illusion of casual spontaneity” (Duke, Vancouver Sun) throughout the entire evening – which brought about the three standing ovations and encores. For those who for some reason or other, missed out on this extraordinary display of British talent, a recording was made and will be played by CBC radio on a later date.