Maestro offers both charm and musical insight

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Sunday afternoon at St John Sub Castro was another example of the artistry of the Kantanti Ensemble under the musical direction of Lee Reynolds.

Foregoing the usual programme notes, Maestro Reynolds emulated the great Leonard Bernstein and offered a brief mini-lecture before each piece, delivered with charm and musical insight.

The concert began with The Enchanted Lake, a short atmospheric mood piece by Russian composer Anatol Liadov, but the meat of the program was Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs, sung artfully by Australian soprano Miranda Keys, a finalist in the 2007 Cardiff Singer of the World.

Her phrasing and word expression here was lovely, and if her lower range was occasionally overshadowed by Strauss’ heavy orchestration, her upper range was full and glorious. Lee Reynolds conducted with passion.

Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic poem, Scheherazade, comprised the second half, whose four movements are titled after tales of The Arabian Nights.

The prominent violin solo, representing Queen Scheherazade herself, permeates the work with sensuous, melodic lines, poignantly executed here by leader Beatrice Philips. Reynolds’ somewhat measured interpretation brought out the work’s heartrending sweetness as well as its power.

Bravo, Kantanti– may you continue to go from strength to strength!