Monday, November 30, 2009

Barber's Hermit Songs 1-8 Performed by Helen Semple and Polina Gerasimenko

Here is some really fine playing and singing - from a lunchtime concert at St. Martin-in-the-Fields earlier this year, the first eight of Samuel Barber's Hermit Songs performed by soprano Helen Semple and pianist Polina Gerasimenko:

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  1. Anonymous9:18 AM

    i love these songs and i love live performance. however, i am surprised that you would post this, especially under the heading of "really fine", considering that the soprano sings from the middle of the second page to the middle of the third page of "at saint patrick's purgatory" in the wrong key. i can understand a wrong note, miscalculating a dynamic, forgetting an acting beat, etc... but a sustained passage of wrong notes? seriously from 42-1:02?-- an occasional right note here is on accident. she also sings the wrong first note of the second song. maybe she was particularly nervous at the beginning of the concert.

    i also put some of this to the pianist-- was she aware and listening, if this also happened in rehearsal, to know that it was wrong? if not, she had not studied the score.

    yes, it is a good collaboration, in terms of being together and making bold choices, particularly later in the cycle, sea snatch. maybe youtube and the internet have made it possible to broadcast performances anywhere, anytime. however, i think the music has lost some integrity, especially in the first song and the performance is off to a limping start because of it.

    i can be forgiving of performers who have a bad day, but not the person who broadcasts their less than excellent performance. the music deserves better.

  2. Thanks for the honest commentary, Anonymous poster. As the author of this blog, I reserve the right to choose which videos get posted. This was a live performance, and if you assume that performers achieve a high level of perfection at all times in live performance, you are sadly mistaken. Ms. Sempel may have missed a few notes, but she got back on in convincing fashion with her most promising voice.

    Making and recovering from mistakes in performance is simply part of the live music experience. If I were to require perfection from a performance as a prerequisite to appearing on this blog, I would not have many to choose from.

  3. Ronan Collett10:19 AM

    This is a really fantastic performance. 'Brava!' to Ms. Semple and Ms. Gerasimenko. I honestly don't give a flying monkeys about 'wrong' notes. We're all human after all - in fact, it's the human element that interests me most of all in any performance. Of course, it is immensely important to sing the 'right' notes out of respect for the music. At the same time, I'd like to think that composers, artists and audience members alike consider attributes such as honesty and an ability to engage with an audience as even more important. I think the artists in this video have both of these qualities in spades. Ms. Semple also happens to have an extremely beautiful voice with an attractive vibrato and polished technique. Thank you very much for posting the video. I look forward to hearing more about these talented artists.