St. Louis Symphony | Interview and Praise for Mahler & Vivier

April 2016 – Susanna Phillips joined music director David Robinson at the St. Louis Symphony for a concert of repertoire centering on a “childlike view of life, and beyond” including Ravel’s “Mother Goose” Suite, “Lonely Child” by Claude Vivier , and Mahler’s Symphony no. 4. Before the concerts, Susanna and St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Sarah Bryan Miller discussed her career and more in an interview:

Phillips said she likes having a mixture of staged operas and concert performances on her calendar. “They’re quite different mediums, and as a performer you learn different sides of yourself through both kinds,” she said. “I love operas — so many people working as a team for a common goal of telling one story. Also I love concerts — the flexibility of programming, ensemble size and venue makes each concert unique and special.”

(Sarah Bryan Miller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 2016)

The performances effected a passionate “evening of innocence,” one that was reflected in the observations again by Post-Dispatch’s Sarah Bryan Miller:

The Canadian composer Claude Vivier (1948-1983) wrote music that drew upon exotic and ageless musical forms to create sounds that speak deeply to us today. His 1980 “Lonely Child” uses chant and instrumental sounds typical of the East to create an affecting sonic world, with words that promise marvels.

Vivier called it “a long song of solitude.” Soprano Susanna Phillips provided the consoling voice that sang to the “beauteous child of light” in need of comfort, murmuring in French of dancing fairies and Merlin, and promising that someone would hold his hand. It’s a marvelous ensemble piece that carries the listener gently, and Robertson and his forces performed it like a dream.

The second half was filled by Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 in G major. Thematically, this is music about death, but with a happy ending: the fourth and final movement is a setting for soprano of the poem “Das himmlische Leben (The Heavenly Life),” a food, saint and angel-filled portrayal of the afterlife, from a child’s point of view.

The song is from “Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Boy’s Magic Horn),” a collection of German folk poems. Mahler made much use of it, but seldom as effectively as here. The music encompasses everything from country dances to klezmer, its tone ranging from the sardonic to the serene.

Phillips sang with appropriately childlike tone and aspect, with a lightness and spirit to her singing that conveyed the innocent joy of the narrator and provided the perfect final focus to the symphony as a whole. Halen, as a diabolical fiddler, shone in his solo passages, as did principal horn Roger Kaza; the winds were in fine voice.

(Sarah Bryan Miller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 2016)

To access the full pre-concert interview with Susanna Phillips click HERE. The complete concert review can be found HERE.

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