Sunday, 16 May 2010

SIMPLE GIFTS: ANNA KOOR Vocal Recital / Review

ANNA KOOR Vocal Recital
with Shane Thio, Piano
Esplanade Recital Studio
Saturday (15 May 2010)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 17 May 2010.

Lovers of the voice have had it good this past week. After the earlier triumphs of Andrea Bocelli and Sumi Jo, it was left to Singaporean mezzo-soprano Anna Koor to prove that this island-republic has produced some decent singers too. Her 70-minute long recital of folksongs from around the world was simply a pleasure.

She began with Dvorak’s Zigeunerlieder (Gypsy Songs), displaying a rich, full-bodied ringing tone, one that has matured steadily over the years. No actual gypsy melodies were quoted here, instead the cycle of seven songs sung in German delighted in the itinerant people’s free spirit and rhythmic vibrancy.

Dark and passionate hues alternated with the radiantly expressive, culminating with the most familiar number of the set, Songs My Mother Taught Me, sung with a winsome twinkle in the eye. The richly textured and Brahmsian piano accompaniment was perfectly handled by Shane Thio (left).

Next were four English songs settings by Aaron Copland and Benjamin Britten. Although her enunciation of the words was not always intelligible, her lyrical gift of legato shone through. Copland’s Simple Gifts was another very familiar melody, being the big tune in the American composer’s ballet Appalachian Spring. Koor fluffed her lines in Britten’s minute-long tongue-twisting Oliver Cromwell. Merely a small hiccup, a peek over Thio’s shoulder, and the song was done. Blink, and you would have missed it.

The second half opened with three soothing Chinese lullabies, sung in three different dialects. Credit to her for making each one sound different. The third, Yue Guang Guang, sung in Cantonese, was particularly evocative and was “encored” at the end of the concert.

As if keeping up with the Sumi Jos, Koor had her own three changes of costumes. Emerging with a giant rose in her hair, she exuded a Carmen-like demeanor for Manuel de Falla’s Seven Spanish Folksongs. She clearly exults in a sultry persona, bringing a sensual and intensely spirited mien to these short pieces. The Lullaby, with its Moorish chant-like dreaminess, moved like a rare thing of beauty. One eagerly awaits her next outing.

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