” … At Leif Ove Andsnes’s astonishing fourth Rosendal Chamber Music Festival in the picturesque Barionet Rosendal of the western Fjord district of Norway’s Hardanger, two singers swept the audience stratospherically above the earth. They are the Ukrainian baritone Andrei Bondarenko and French tenor Christophe Poncet de Solages. Yes, both singers transported us with their fully engaged, emotionally profundity but more expressly and more importantly both artists gave us what most singers rarely can achieve and that is, the ability to deliver truth.
” … For audiences and for Bondarenko, the festival’s comprehensive purview offered the opportunity to hear the rarely performed Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death in the opening concert and two Shostakovich cycles based on Pushkin’s poetry¬–the Monologues Opus 91 and the Four Romances the following evening … In his depictions of death in Mussorgsky’s four-song cycle Bondarenko was powerful without being pompous, thoughtful without being introspective. At never any point did he direct us to his voice, but rather to what his voice was telling us – and always through his perspective as a millennial man, thereby creating an experience composed in the past but relatable in the present. This is musical contemporary story telling.
“The partnership with Andsnes as accompanist was incomparable. The two performers seamlessly dovetailed the others tone and phrasing with singular intention. With the two Shostakovich pieces, the performances were a little more studied–Bondarenko was more dependent on his score. For the audience the programming juxtaposition of the two cycles offered a fascinating insight into an almost twenty-year trajectory of Shostakovich’s developing style. Shostakovich’s interest in Pushkin’s poetry began in 1936 with the settings of four poems in the Romances.
“He returned to Pushkin in the monologues in 1952, co-incidentally in the year of Stalin’s death. The monologues develop Shostakovich’s musical imprimatur of his signature DSCH and travel through a musical landscape evoking the tolling of church bells. Accompanied by the quixotic Armenian pianist Marianna Shirinyan, Bondarenko offered a stoic and reserved sound. In the Four Romances with Norway’s lithe and attentive Ensemble Allegria, the baritone’s summoned reedy qualities to convey the messages.
“In this festival, artist-in-residence Russian composer Alexander Vustin – described by in house musicologist and charming raconteur Gerard McBurney as the most important composer in Russia today –presented his most compelling work in the opening concert.
“Written in 1990, Zaitsev’s Letter –a chamber work for string ensemble and narrator sets as its text a published letter to the editor by a twenty-old Russian prisoner describing the conditions in his country’s penal system. With resonances of various records of mass incarceration and immigration casting a contemporary shadow this performance was gifted by the recitation by French tenor Christophe Poncet de Solages.
“Poncet de Solages did not sing per se and remarkably learnt Russian at high school, but the visceral rhythmic vitality of his interpretation through Sprechstimme and half sung phrases shot through the air with a searing direction aimed straight to our hearts. Poncet de Solanges’s interpretation was a stratigraphic excavation of the thoughts of the distressed prisoner. Theatrical music making of this standard does not get more compelling.
“Like Bondarenko, Poncet de Solages took us to the place Pärt so aptly seeks – a heart to heart connection that takes us a little above the ground. In this case, the earth rattled.
“In this four-day festival in the small town of Rosendal of the Hardanger Fjord, Andsnes builds his festival in the concert venue of Barionet Rosendal, a 1655 Manor House and Garden. Cradled by towering mountains, waterfalls, and streams with the scents of a rose garden and fir trees filling the air, the Rosendal Chamber Music Festival is set to become one of the must attend festivals of the European summer.”