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SZYMON LAKS 1901-1983

Jennifer McGregor & Jacqueline Cole
Hinde Street Methodist Church, London W1
1 November 2007

This was an enterprising recital that paid the price in terms of meagre audience response - I have recently been advised by a pianist's manager that if you want to programme a Beethoven sonata, it is best to offer one of the 'named' ones !!

The small gathering at Hinde Street (a very pleasant venue with good acoustic) was stimulated and satisfied by new acquaintance with some fine composers outside the mainstream; only Berg's early songs are likely to have been familiar.

First, and maybe best, was a set of 15 folk songs, with piquant harmonisation in the accompaniments, set by Schulhoff, a victim of the Nazi holocaust.*

Jennifer McGregor sang them with sympathy and understanding. Little known since settling in UK, she has had a distinguished opera career in Australia**, and remains in fine voice. She was partnered by a sterling pianist, Jacqueline Cole, for whom this selection of songs provided ample opportunity to display her keyboard skills and good rapport with the soloist.

A strong case was made for young singers seeking to extend their repertoires to explore the extensive collection of songs composed by the prolific Szymon Laks.

The organisers of the Viktor Ullmann Series would do well however to give more attention to promotion and presentation. The flyer, above, is excellent, but it had not been posted outside to attract a few passers-by. There were no texts and translations made available and the information given from the platform was inadequate. We never found out why Laks' bird doesn't exist...

Peter Grahame Woolf

*Schulhoff's Narodni pisne a tance z tesinska (Volkslieder und Tanze aus Schlesisch-Teschen, Ostrava 1936) were published by Panton in 1960.

** London-based soprano Jennifer McGregor - - was invited by Richard Bonynge to join Opera Australia; her first role with the company was Fe-a-nich-ton in Offenbach's “Ba-ta-clan.” She went on to sing “Ophelia” with Sherril Milnes, Adele in “Die Fledermaus” with Dame Joan Sutherland, Queen of the Night in “Die Zauberflote,” Sophie in “Der Rosenkavalier,” Xenia in “Boris Gudonov,” Musetta in “La Boheme,” Lucia in “Lucia di Lammermoor,” Rosina in “Barber of Seville,” the title role in Massenet's “Manon,” Blondchen in “Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail,” Yum-Yum in “The Mikado,” Oscar in “Ballo in Maschera,” Marie in “La Fille du Regiment,” Norina in “Don Pasquale,” Zerlina in “Fra Diavolo,” Juliette in “Romeo and Juliette,” and Titania in “A Midsummer Night's Dream.” As principal guest soprano in Heidelberg, she landed leading roles in “Lulu,” “Die Schweigsame Frau,” “Rigoletto” and “Julius Caesar.” She sang the Australian premiere of the three-act version of “Lulu.” Also in Australia, she was Leila in “Les Pecheurs de Perles,” Donna Anna in “Don Giovanni,” the title role in “Lakme,” Violetta in “La Traviata,” the four heroines in “Les Contes D'Hoffmann,” and Nedda in “ Pagliacci.”