On Saturday, March 1, 2014, the Montreal Estonian Society presented Stephen Bell (tenor) and Charles Kipper (piano), in a recital of solo Art Songs at the Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur.
Karl J. Raudsepp, the President of the MES welcomed everyone and introduced the Estonian Ambassador to Canada, Her Excellency, Gita Kalmet. In her brief remarks, she emphasized the seriousness of the current situation in the Ukraine and reminded everyone of the significance of these events in the context of Estonia’s history, which was celebrating its 96th anniversary as a Republic.
The featured performers were then introduced and the raison d’être for the evening unfolded in the spectacular venue, which was perfectly suited visually and acoustically for the performance of this seldom heard vocal music.
In the first half of the program, Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin and Finzi’s A Young Man’s Exhortation stood out and were a nice balance to the more somber songs of the latter half of the program, which were perhaps more reflective of the Estonian psyche. The Estonian pieces that drew one’s attention were Aavik’s Kojuigatsus, Haava’s Me olime nagu lapsed, Kapp’s Metsateel and Türnpu’s Üks ainus kord, which was also repeated as one of the encore pieces.
During the short pause, Charles Kipper recounted how he and Stephen Bell met and began their collaboration, of studying and performing Estonian solo Art Songs.
The choice of repertoire underscored the lyrical quality of Bell’s delicate voice, which exuded warmth and sincerity, as well as candidly communicated the emotional and expressive elements of the songs. While at times the piano seemed a little overpowering, for the most part the balance between the performers was quite subtle. It was also discernible at times that Bell’s Estonian diction could use some nuanced study. However, the synergy between voice and piano was clearly evident throughout the performance, not to mention the obvious respect the two performers have for each other.
The audience thoroughly enjoyed the recital, especially the second half of the program. It is not often that these songs are performed with such care and enthusiasm. One listener stated that “hearing the Estonian Art Songs provides motivation to read the poetry for which the music has been composed.”
A reception followed the recital, highlighting Astrid Dando’s newly formed catering service, Innocent Cakes. Among the many who provided inspiration and financial support for this event, the Estonian Foundation of Canada deserves specific mention.
Bell / Kipper Recital Chapelle historique du Bon Pasteur, Montreal