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Christopher Maltman

Friday, January 20, 2012

I fell in love with the British baritone Christopher Maltman's voice when I was scouting around iTunes for a recoding of Ralph Vaughan Williams' Songs of Travel. That was about three years ago. I listened to many different artists' samples of the song cycle and Maltman's was the one that spoke to me the most. Since then, I have devoured his recordings.

Last night, at Herbst Theatre, I finally got to hear him live. Maltman sang a recital under the auspices of San Francisco Performances with pianist Malcolm Martineau.

What a gig.

The thing that impressed me most was the suave silkiness of Maltman's tone -- he is the vocal equivalent of a matinee idol.

Secondly, I was entranced by the dynamic between the singer and pianist. For two hours they carried on a flowing conversation with one another without exchanging a single word. Music was the language they spoke and every note danced.

Thirdly, the repertoire choices were intriguing. The first half of the program was devoted to songs with Venice as a theme. I had never heard the song cycle Venezia: Six Chansons en dialecte venitien by the early 20th century French composer Reynaldo Hahn. It's a vibrant, cheeky piece full of romance and spice. It's stuffed with kitschy moments, but the melodies spiral winsomely and the harmonies are lush. Maltman and Martineau played it with humor and panache and the audience was hooked form start to finish.

My only regret of the evening was that the there were too many empty seats.

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