Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hamilton Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra with Miriam Khalil

 I attended a Hamilton Philharmonic concert Sat. April 9. Maestro Jamie Sommerville conducted a chamber ensemble of about 18 first desk players in a very satisfying and adventurous program featuring soprano Miriam Khalil. She seems to be headed for the "big career" possessing a beautiful (already) full lyric soprano voice, acting and interpretative ability, musicianship and physical presence. She sang Cleopatra in Handel's Giulio Cesare at Glyneboure and performed Mimi in Opera Hamilton's La Bohème (Musetta in Edmonton).
They opened with a lovely reading of Wagner's Siegfried Idyll which included some nice passages by Concertmaster Lance Elbeck.
Omar Daniel's Neruda Canciones followed. Dr. Omar is the director of the Composition, Electroacoustic Research and Performance Facility at the University of Western Ontario. He writes, as one would expect, "academic new music," and I liked the piece rather more than I had expected. Basing my opinion only on this piece, he is a fine composer, imaginative, working with facility and in great detail. The textures are varied and not unrelievedly contrapuntal. However, less sophisticated listeners, unfamiliar with the style, will always find this sort of music difficult.
Miriam Khalil brought the piece to life. I don't know how much new music she has performed but she certainly had no difficulty with this work. The vocal part is demanding covering spoken text, melodic passages and declamation (also tambourine playing!). She vocalized equally adeptly in all the registers of her voice and with evenness of colour. Dr. Daniel wrote long passages that demand dramatic singing and Khalil sang them with controlled intensity.
I had expected more of the same kind of music from Osvaldo Gollijov in the piece which followed the intermission, ZZ's Dream. I was pleasantly surprised. The work, based on a scene from on old Chinese epic, was reminiscent of French music of the early 20th. C. It was sensuous and sonorous, full of delicate colours evoking the "fairy tale" nature of its program.
They closed with an arrangement of Mahler's Rückert-Lieder. I'd forgotten how intimate are many of Mahler's songs. They lend themselves to this treatment as the piano often plays independent lines in counterpoint to the voice. Khalil acted the songs with her voice and expression, as one must do in interpreting art song. In the last song, Mitternacht, she sang out the final heroic stanzas, hinting at what her voice might become over time.


  1. I am pleased to see that singers on the ascent are incorporating new music in their repertoire. This is how these new creations will come out of the academic and specialized ghettos and be seen as what they are: a legitimate part of the concert world.