Review: Voice Recital at Caius

LIZZIE BENNETT: ‘Saturday’s concert was not just about two talented musicians presenting an evening recital; it was one…which aims to “bring people together, to connect dreams, aims, lives.”

Ariadne Arianna a Naxos Bach caius Haydn Kings College Chapel Monteverdi Choir Takahashi Theseus

Saturday 8th May, 6.30, £5-15. 

Tucked away in a corner of Caius college is the small (yet perfectly formed) Bateman Auditorium, which on Saturday night was the scene of an excellent vocal recital given by the mezzo-soprano and Wolfson fellow, Lynette Alcántara, ably accompanied on the piano by Fusae Takahashi.  It was right that the concert was introduced in the programme by Countess Ilona Esterházy – patron of The NEW EUROPE Society and a descendant of the famous Esterházy family for whom Haydn worked during the eighteenth century, whose music featured in Saturday night’s concert. 

To say that Alcántara has a good voice is an understatement – she has sung with the BBC singers, The Monteverdi Choir, The Sixteen, The Bach Choir and The King’s Consort to name but a few, and teaches singing to the choristers of King’s College Chapel. However, it did feel that the first song in the Frauenliebe cycle was a bit too tentative, and this was especially clear when it was repeated with more gusto at the end of the concert. 

The second of the eight songs in the cycle was performed with much more emotion, and was accompanied with great musicality by Takahashi. In its entirety, the song cycle was very effective and received an enthusiastic response from the audience, but it was not until the final song that the sheer desperation of the narrative really appeared in the music. The second half of the concert featured three songs by Haydn and his cantata Arianna a Naxos, which consists of two recitative sections and two arias. The cantata can be interpreted in many different ways, and Alcántara’s rendering was highly effective and expressive, and convincingly portrayed Ariadne’s love for Theseus and her despair and regret at the realisation that he will not return to her.

The main criticism to be found in this recital was one of programming rather than the performance itself: all of the music performed was related to a woman’s reaction to love (rarely the requited kind) which, unsurprisingly, swung between a rather saccharine devotion and sheer hatred of the less-fair sex. By the time that Ariadne was deserted by Theseus at the end of the concert, one could only conclude from the recital that all men are cads and liars (no comment).

Importantly, Saturday’s concert was not just about two talented musicians presenting an evening recital; it was one in a series of events organised by The NEW EUROPE Society, which aims to “bring people together, to connect dreams, aims, lives.” Although the music in the concert was perfectly executed, it seems a shame that this somewhat sycophantic, grammatically-incorrect and frankly cheesy mission was not better achieved.

It is undeniable that the price of the tickets reflected the quality of the music and its performers, but it was noticeable that I was one of only three students in the audience (the other two being friends I had brought along for company).  If the aim of the series of events is to build “new bridges of understanding and dialogue for everybody interested”, then perhaps future events should be made more accessible to the students which the society is trying to attract.