Early Music Vancouver presents Love Near, Love Far
Tyler Duncan, baritone and Erika Switzer, fortepiano
Streaming: Feb. 10, 7:30 pm
Early Music Vancouver’s latest streamcast is a lieder recital with a difference: Music by composers from the end of the 19th century, with a piano more or less contemporary with the songs. Good enough reason to give a listen; add the talents of baritone Tyler Duncan and pianist Erika Switzer, and you have a program of considerable appeal.
EMV was quick off the mark this summer in making plans for a season of streaming. That included taking advantage of having the Duncan/Switzer duo near by, as the couple decided to make the long drive with their young son from New York state, where Switzer is on the faculty at Baird College, to British Columbia.
“The three of us drove from New York to Vancouver and back again last summer, in part to take advantage of a family recreational property in the Okanagan,” says Switzer. “As you can imagine, in those early days of the pandemic our major concern was to keep ourselves safe. We found a hotel chain that guaranteed rooms were sealed and empty for 48 hours before we arrived. It took us four-and-a-half days, and then we quarantined in a family vacation home in Naramata.”
Since the artists were in the Okanagan, EMV wondered if they might come to Vancouver and do a program? They were certainly prepared to do so, and an intriguing program of songs by Vaughan Williams, Maude Valérie White, Charles Gounod, Cécil Chaminade and Hugo Wolf came together.
Some of the choices are classics, but more than half of the program is devoted to a fairly rarified repertoire.
The Gounod songs were brought to the duo’s attention by François Le Roux, who had met Switzer a decade ago when he was on the jury for the Wigmore Hall/Bollinger International Song Competition, and who later came to town to visit the Vancouver International Song Institute. Gounod’s songs, written on English texts, in turn became the nucleus of Erika and Tyler’s first duo album, English Songs à la française, released by Bridge Records.
Duncan is especially partial to the works by White, a French-born Englishwoman active in the late Victorian era. Switzer adds: “White and Chaminade are two female composers that were new to us, and totally joyful discoveries.”
This won’t be the first time the duo has used a historical keyboard in EMV performances. A few summers back they tackled Brahms’ wonderful Magelone Songs in an intimate UBC concert. Switzer finds it a considerable boon to play on an instrument from the 19th century: “Sometimes when you play music from this period on a modern piano, you encounter things that make no sense. But once you do it on an historical instrument, you realize the composers are writing for a very different mechanism.”
Are there advantages for the singer? You bet. “You have to struggle not to get buried by a modern Steinway,” says Duncan.
What about working with all the 21st-century technology needed to capture a recital for streaming? “Recording on the empty stage at the Chan is definitely odd,” says Switzer, “but not necessarily bad. We like to create worlds on the stage, immerse ourselves in the poetry and the stories, creating the atmosphere.”
Duncan adds: “We had friends in both the camera crew and the recording crew, so it didn’t feel as strange as it might have. In fact, the camera and recording setup became our little operatic set. The Chan Centre sits in the forest on the UBC campus and has become a second home for us, with a level of psychological comfort that we weren’t exactly expecting.”
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