This was French song, mélodie or chanson, with vocal beef!
The fashionable tendency of treating the genre with kid gloves as something fragile and delicate often leaves it sounding characterless and can regularly be allied to affectation and under-singing.
All of which was the last thing Katarina Karnéus could be accused of at her Sheffield Chamber Music Festival lunchtime concert in the Crucible Studio.
So, she could have been charged with sounding a little too operatic at times, not least when echoes of Herodias in Richard Strauss’s Salome surfaced, a role the Swedish mezzo-soprano was coming to end of in an eight-performance run with Opera North.
French song aficionados or purists may well throw fits, but it wasn’t so distressing. Hearing, for instance, Après un rève and Automne among four Fauré items sung with purpose and feeling was a refreshing change to the regular insipid renderings of them.
Four songs by Duparc, including Chanson Triste and the well-known L’Invitation au Voyage, gained enormously from forthright but subtle, meaningful delivery, the only thing missing being word clarity. A stumbling block, generally, was the need for sharper diction.
With it, the superbly sung Trois Chansons de Bilitis by Debussy would have been even more memorable with Joseph Middleton’s fabulous execution of the piano part which captured the composer’s myriad of tonal colours.
Satie’s La diva de L’Empire ensured that everyone had a smile on their face at the end.