Quinn Kelsey & Llŷr Williams at Wigmore Hall – Rosenblatt Recital

The Queen of Spades Op.68 – Ya vas lyublyu
Let us Garlands Bring, Op.18
Hérodiade – Vision fugitive
Don Quichotte à Dulcinée
Old American Songs [selections: The Boatmen’s Dance; Simple Gifts; Long Time Ago]
Songs and Dances of Death

Quinn Kelsey (baritone) & Llŷr Williams (piano)

Reviewed by: Amanda-Jane Doran

Reviewed: 11 November, 2015
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Quinn KelseyPhotograph: Jonathan RoseThose fortunate enough to catch Quinn Kelsey’s British debut at English National Opera in Rigoletto (February 2014) will be aware of this rising Hawaiian star. His debut Rosenblatt Recital at Wigmore Hall presented a programme of contrasts in scale and style.

Kelsey opened with Tchaikovsky, an aria from The Queen of Spades, as impassioned and tortured as anything from Eugene Onegin. The big, bold, bearded singer grabbed our attention with the powerful richness of his voice and dynamic stage presence.

The characteristic leaps and melancholy chromaticism of Gerald Finzi’s Let us Garlands Bring brought a shift of focus. Kelsey’s voice took a while to settle, some songs being more intimate and introspective, especially ‘Come Away Death’, but the singer’s warmth of tone and intelligence soon shone through in these Shakespeare settings. The moods were communicated in an easy, natural style. The sunny ‘O Mistress Mine’ was sung with insouciance, hands in pockets. Kelsey sang from memory, enhancing directness. Llŷr Williams’s lightness of touch and attention to detail contributed much.

‘Vision fugitive’ from Massenet’s Hérodiade was intensely dramatic and sung with fine enunciation of the passionate and erotic French text. More French settings followed with Ravel’s Don Quichotte à Dulcinée, performed with chivalric élan, and originally written in 1933 for Pabst’s film of Don Quixote to be performed by the legendary Chaliapin. Kelsey shares some bass resonances.

The recital’s second half opened with a selection from Aaron Copland’s Old American Songs. ‘The Boatman’s Dance’ was Robeson-esque in delivery and effect. The evening concluded with Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death, bleak sketches of Russian life, conversations between those living and the figure of Death. The opening ‘Lullaby’ has a mother desperately trying to protect her child from Death in a tragic dialogue, which played to Kelsey’s gifts.

This was a programme of enormous demands on the voice, to which Quinn Kelsey was more than equal. His Wigmore debut was finished off with a depth-charge of an encore, an aria from Rigoletto. He is appearing at Covent Garden in March 2016 as Germont in La traviata. Go!

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