Monday 4th December, 2017


Monday’s concert was unusual. It is a long time since Aberdeen Chamber Music Concerts have hosted a solo singer with piano accompaniment. Soprano Lorena Paz Nieto and her accompanist Johan Barnoin were last in Aberdeen for an afternoon concert on Tuesday 2nd August 2016 in Cults Parish Church as part of the Aberdeen International Youth Festival. They made a huge impression on that occasion so were invited to return to Aberdeen for the third concert in the Chamber Music Concerts Series in Queen’s Cross Church.

Lorena Paz Nieto hails originally from Spain but is currently studying in London. Along with her piano accompanist Johan Barnoin, originally from Nice in France, the Duo were the 2016 winners of the prestigious Oxford Lieder Young Artist’s Prize so we were obviously in for a great evening of music.

The Duo opened with music by four German Composers the first being Frühlingslied or Spring Song by Brahms. The text is by the German poet Emanuel von Geibel who was the author of the Spanisches Liederbuch (1852) but Frühlingslied is not from that book. When he was getting on in years Brahms took a fancy to a young German contralto Hermine Spies but he realised that he was simply too old for her. In a letter to a friend Hermine wrote about Frühlingslied: “Look at that marvellous song. Oh how it sings and rings and rejoices – that is to say in the accompaniment, while the vocal part moans and weeps above it.” That is a fine description of Monday’s performance by Lorena and Johan. The final verse of the poem sums up how Brahms must have been feeling.


                                   What a yearning! What a dreaming!

                                   Ah, before you burn out,

                                   old heart of mine, you would like to blossom

                                   one more time with the flowers, with the trees.


The duo continued their recital with three songs by Schumann: Sehnsucht, Melancholie and Zigeunerliedchen no. 2. The voice and piano gelled beautifully together in these very expressive songs.

Der Mond, The Moon, by Mendelssohn is another setting of a poem by Geibel. Johan’s rippling piano accompaniment suggested the moonlight shining over the gardens while Lorena’s silver tones suggested the moonlight itself.

It was with the Four Songs from the Spanisches Liederbuch, not the one written by Geibel but the songs by Hugo Wolf that I really began to be entranced by this performance. Wolf’s harmonies expressed on the piano were played deliciously by Johan while the concord and sometimes the teasing clashes with the vocal lines were utterly compelling. The sheer colour range expressed in all four songs were dazzling.

The second half of the programme was devoted to songs by composers who composed to Spanish texts. They began with Dos Canciones op.3 by the Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera. The piano part in Canción al árbol del olvido was mostly a single note melodic line played on the left hand. Later bright upper chords came in on the right hand. Was this Ginastera’s means of making the piano sound like a guitar?

In Canción a la luna lunanca was as Lorena said rather like Mendelssohn’s Der Mond only more colourful, much more atmospheric, I thought.

Ginastera’s Five Popular Argentine Songs op. 10 were even more kaleidoscopic. The piano parts played affectingly by Johan were often teasingly ticklish, hyper-delicate sometimes with slightly edgy harmonies that clashed deliciously with the soaring passionate vocal parts. Arrorró, a deeply felt lullaby and Gato a hard driven dance were totally bewitching.

The Five Songs by the Brazilian composer Villa-Lobos were every bit as compelling. Amor y Perfidia had a wonderfully colourful piano part. The two very short songs, Pudor and Perversidade had a similar delicacy to some of the Ginastera pieces we had just heard.

Lundú da Marqueza de Santos boasted a vocal part full of drama and emotion and then Cantilena had rich piano chords landing on a resonant bass while the vocal part was hummed softly and seductively. It was great to be introduced to so much music that was new to us like discovering new and delicious foods. Lorena and Johan were given a glowing ovation by the audience to which they responded with a dramatic song by Manuel da Falla who was definitely Spanish while the others though using Spanish texts were Latin Americans. The piano part was virtuosic while the vocal burned with genuine Spanish vehemence.

Lorena Paz Nieto & Johan Barnoin Review