Passion and pathos in tenor's recital

By Janet Wilson, from The Canberra Times, 9 March 2013, p.20.

Some performances remain in the mind as something special. That was the case when tenor Kent Mclntosh and pianist Andrew Greene gave a recital for Art Song Canberra in 2007. The beauty of McIntosh's voice, his versatility and the way that he was able to capture the atmosphere of music ranging from romantic Schumann to light-hearted Britten folksong settings captured the audience.

McIntosh graduated from the Canberra School of Music in 2001. He then moved on to join the Opera Australia chorus and has sung in most of the company's productions for the past 11 years as well as giving recitals in Australia and New Zealand. He's been back in Canberra rehearsing with mezzo-soprano Maartje Sevenster and pianist Colin Forbes for a concert at St Philip's Anglican Church, O'Connor, on Friday—a program of music by the Czech composer Leos Janacek.

With Sevenster and Forbes, McIntosh will sing a song cycle with the intriguing title The Diary of One who Disappeared. Written between 1917 and 1919, it was the first of a number of works inspired by Kamila Stosslova. She was a Gypsy woman 38 years younger than Janacek who was married. Although there was no suggestion of a sexual relationship between the two, Janacek became obsessed with her. His operas Kata Kabanova, The Cunning Little Vixen and The Makropulos Affair were all written with her in mind.

The Diary of One Who Disappeared tells the story of a rich farmer's son who, to avoid scandal and disgrace, disappears with his lover and their child. "It's very passionate music," McIntosh says, "and obviously very dear to Janacek's heart. This guy is ripped out of his quiet country existence and creates a real scandal when he goes off with his lover and child. He turns his back on everything he knows and holds dear."

Obviously it takes stamina to be an opera singer and Mclntosh takes' great pride in his fitness. At almost two metres he's always easy to spot on stage, and as he runs from his flat in Sydney's Crown Street to the Opera House—a distance of four kilometers—for rehearsals or performances he must create a sensation. "I look for gaps in the foot traffic," he says, "and sometimes I cycle. There's plenty of time to have a shower and then get my make-up and costume on before we're called."

After performing in Verdi's Il Trovatori the night before I spoke to him, McIntosh had a two-hour rehearsal the following morning for a performance of Falstaff. He's also singing in La Boheme in the Sydney summer season before moving to Melbourne for the autumn season. "And I have to get back to Canberra for another Janacek rehearsal next week," he says.

Forbes will be playing two of Janacek's piano works. "And there's not a great deal of Janacek piano repertoire, so this is about one-quarter of all of it!" he says. "The piano suite On an Overgrown Path is a Moravian idiom for someone looking back on his life. Of the 10 pieces, the first five are about happier times and the final five are sad as Janacek dwells on the death of his daughter. His piano sonata was originally four movements but Janacek later destroyed it. However, the pianist who gave its premiere was able to copy two movements and Janacek later sanctioned the work in this form. "The Diary of One Who Disappeared is, on the other hand, a life-enriching piece. I last played it at the opening of the Seymour Centre in Sydney about 30 years ago. You might say that 'death and life' is a subtext for this whole program.

"There's a depth of honesty about Janacek that very few composers have," Forbes says. "Even Bartok doesn't get to the nitty-gritty of life in the way that Janacek does, and there's always an overriding gentleness in his music. This concert is an opportunity to hear some very moving music."

Canberra Academy of Music and Related Arts presents a concert of music by Leos Janacek at St Philip's Anglican Church, O'Connor, at 7.30pm on Friday.