This was the audience’s sing-along line during one of tenor John Paval’s offerings last evening at the music salon “Gabriel Hilda” in Stockholm. Our hostess was Kaija Kaarina Kuronen Suovanen. She graciously seated Eva and me near the piano at one of the “20 intimate seats… fit (with) furnishings suitable to an old Östermalm apartment with dark paneling.” (Gabriel and Hilda are Ms Suovanen’s adult children, both musicians).
John and I have been acquainted for ten years. I have known him as stage actor and producer, but wasn’t aware until a year ago that he is also a professional singer and music historian. So, when I learned he was to perform a concert of French arias and songs at the Musiksalong, I promptly reserved a table for Eva and me. We had been to this charming café a few years ago for a poetry reading.
John’s piano accompanist is Maciej Kluz, who has studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Poland. Mr. Paval cheerfully introduced himself and Mr. Kluz to his audience as “Jack and Mack”.
The evening was advertised as Hyllning till Franske Tonsättare – Bizet till Brel. In translation this is “A Tribute to French Composers – Bizet to Brel.” In addition to the two named composers, we heard pieces from Jules Massenet, Eduard Lalo, Gabriel Fauré, César Franck, Louis Ganne, and Franz Léhar (admittedly not French, but he wrote in the spirit of the time that the others were part of). Between Mr Paval’s sets Mr. Kluz played piano pieces of Frédéric Chopin: a polonaise, a nocturne, a waltz, and, a favorite of mine, the “Black Key” Etude in G flat major, op. 10, no. 5.
As with my previous experience in hearing Mr. Paval sing, he also gave the history of many of the composers and their pieces before he offered them. He described the times in general (the decades surrounding 1850), and the relationships between these composers. This knowledge of the context provided me even more appreciation for the music.
Mr. Paval chose his program well, offering both the sacred and “profane” (as in a piece of Bizet’s Carmen). I was moved by his rendering of the sacred Pie Jesu, by Gabriel Faure (the link is to the piece sung by soprano Barbara Bonney).
As for the heading to this article, Mr. Paval instructed us on how to join him in the first words of the chorus to C’est l’amour from the comic opera Saltimbanques by Louis Ganne:
C´est l´amour qui flotte dans l´air à la ronde
C´est l´amour qui console le pauvre monde
C´est l´amour qui rend chaque jour la gaîté
C´est l´amour qui nous rendra la liberté!
John was gracious enough after the performance to compliment me on my baritone voice.
Before the ending song from Les Miserables by Claude Michel Schönberg, Mr. Paval soulfully sang Jacques Brel’s, La Chanson des Vieux Amants, a capella,
It was a delightful musical evening and setting.
Thank you, Stockholm, Kaija Suovanen, and John Paval.