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Classical music: Streaming recital reunites duo with Victorian piano

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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.”

Early Music Vancouver’s Victorian-era piano will be used for Victorian-era songs in a Feb. 10, 2021 streaming performance by fortepiano Erika Switzer and baritone Tyler Duncan. Photo by Laina Tanahara for EMV

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.”

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