We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Elad Kabilio, Grace Ho, Larisa Martinez, Oded Hadar, and Caleb van der Swaagh   

We escaped from the crowds and chaos of Cyber Monday to spend a pleasant hour with some marvelous musicians.  We learned.  We listened.  We relaxed.  We arrived stressed out and we left feeling soothed. We felt entertained as well as educated.

MUSIC TALKS has a mission: to bring music to an intimate and informal setting, to break down the barriers between musicians and audience, to expose audiences to chamber music in small doses. The experience would be a perfect one to introduce someone to the joys of classical music; it does not, however, insult the intelligence of those of us who already love music.

For example, as lovers of 19th c. vocal music and opera, there is a great deal about instrumental music we don't know and a great deal of pre-Classical music that we haven't appreciated. Without delivering an entire dissertation, cellist Elad Kabilio introduced the audience to J.S. Bach's Die Kunst der Fuge, composed toward the end of Bach's life.

We never really understood what a fugue was but Mr. Kabilio easily explained how it differs from a canon and proceeded to illustrate--the subject was played by one cello, the slight variation played by a second one (the variation for harmonic purposes), and the original subject entering the scene played by a third cello.

Apparently Bach worked out this puzzle meticulously without ever indicating for which instruments  it was intended.  To our ears, it sounded just right with four cellos!  Mathematics became music and pleased our ears as the strands were woven together into an harmonious whole.

Even more enjoyable was Bach's Aria from Pastorale in F Major which was surprisingly lyrical.

The tangos of Spanish composer Isaac Albeniz (turn of the 20th c.) and Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla (mid-20th c.), whose works we have only heard on the bandoneon, were performed as well, arranged for four cellos. In "Mocosita" there was plenty of legato bowing and staccato plucking. We felt like getting up to dance.

But the highlight of the concert was a second hearing of the"Aria" and "Dansa" from Heitor Villa Lobos' Bachianas Brasileras No. 5 sung by soprano Larisa Martinez and arranged for four cellos by Mr. Kabilio. (Villa Lobos wrote this tribute to Bach for 8 cellos.) The program was called Bach in Brazil and it was interesting to hear the echoes of Bach in Villa Lobos' composition.

We had so greatly enjoyed Ms. Martinez' performance of this work two weeks ago that we were most eager for her repeat performance. We are partial to the Cantilena sung on the open vowel "ah". No words were needed to convey the depth of feeling.

For the month of December we have decided to highlight the possibilities of supporting every small company we write about so that our readers can find something better to do with their Xmas funds than buying someone an ugly sweater.  Better to give the money to a worthwhile enterprise and make your loved ones happy with a hug!  So here is the URL...www.Music-Talks.com. Please give!

(c) meche kroop

Friday, November 27, 2015


Guillaume Vincent and Jeanne Gerard

Music is always good, but chamber music in an intimate space is the best. We love the Weill Recital Hall where one can get up close and personal with the artists. There was a fine selection of artists Tuesday night sharing the Spanish music of which we are so fond.  Coming from several Latin American countries as well as from Spain, they performed to draw attention to the rain forest of the Amazon--so important to the health and welfare of the entire planet.

It was a most generous program and the first thing that struck us about the singers--before we even heard them sing--was how beautiful and stylish Latin American women are. We might as well have been attending a Miss Universe contest! But these women have a great deal more to offer; all of them sang with intense involvement with the material and all connected well with the audience. Bravissima!

Accompanied by Oscar Lobete, Colombian soprano Ana Maria Ruge sang two lovely songs by Colombian composer Roberto Pineda Duque. Ms. Ruge appeared in a stunning diaphonous silver gown that matched the silver in her sound.  We loved the romantic "Tu Pupila es Azul" as well as the melancholy "Pobre Amor".

Spanish soprano Laura Sabatel appeared in a stunning orange gown and serenaded us with "El Arbol del Olvido" by Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera. The dance rhythm seemed to affect our entire body.

Lyric soprano Nardo Muñoz hails from Columbia and lent her ringing tone to "Vivir Sin Tus Caricias" by Cuban composer Eduardo Sánchez and "Algún Día" by Colombian composer Jaime Leónferro.

Looking like Amneris in a gorgeous green gown was Mexican soprano Mónica Ábrego who was joined by some stellar musicians from the Rebow Ensemble for Cuatro Nocturnos by the young Mexican composer Juan Pablo Contreras, a departure from most of the other works on the program which were composed in the early 20th c.  Conducted by Ricardo Jaramillo, the combination of flute, clarinet, bassoon, bass and string quartet made for some fine listening and Ms. Abrego has a killer trill.

Slipping into this Latin American lineup was French soprano Jeanne Gérard who, accompanied by Guilllaume Vincent, contributed three wonderful songs. In "Canción del Ruiseñor" from Doña Francisquita by the Spanish composer Amadeo Vives  her lovely and agile voice joined with the piano in imitating the song of the nightingale. From El Anillo de Hierro by Spanish composer Pedro Márquez we heard "Lágrimas Mías", a song of suffering.  And finally, "Al Amor" from the Catalonian composer Fernando Obradors.

Mezzo-soprano Sarah Nelson Craft sang selections from the familiar cycle Canciones Populares by the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla.  We have reviewed these songs several times this month and never tire of them. We were a trifle uneasy that Ms. Craft seemed to ignore the ironic symbolism of "El Paño Moruno" but by the time she got to the sad "Asturiana" and the angry "Polo" we became far more involved.  She was accompanied by the superb guitarist Nilko Andreas Guarin.

Mr. Guarin delighted us in Manuel de Falla's Danza de la Vida Breve with cellist Serafim Smigelsky. The duo are equally adept at contemporary music as they performed the world premiere of Reino Incierto by Colombian composer Juan Calderón.

There was yet more instrumental music in this generous program--pianist Hyemin Kim performed Castelnuovo Tedesco's Fantasia for Piano and Guitar Op. 49 with Mr. Guarin matching her pianistic skill on the guitar.

Mr. Guarin appeared once more in Luigi Bocherini's late 18th c. "Introduccion y Fandango" from his Guitar Quintet No. 4 in D.  We particularly enjoyed the glissandi on Mr. Smigelsky's cello and Noemi Perez Segura's way with the castanets.

The final piece on the program was Concierto del Sur for Mr. Guarin's guitar and chamber orchestra, conducted by Mr. Jaramillo.  We would like to point out that the newly formed Rebow Ensemble, which contributed so much to the success of the evening, continues to put a modern spin on classical music with its diverse collection of musicians. We will be hearing more from them in the future.

Mr. Guarin founded Azlo Productions to increase musical and cultural exchange between Spain, Latin America, and the USA and to unify the Americas through art. We have nothing but good things to say about social action through music.

(c) meche kroop

Sunday, November 22, 2015


The cast of Bare Operas' Goyescas

Enrique Granados' "opera" Goyescas has lain dormant for a century, just like Sleeping Beauty. We put opera in quotes because the way we experienced it was as a dance/ song/ theater piece. The marvelous music pulls it all together. Maestro Sesto Quatrini himself did the arrangement for his 14 piece orchestra which played Granados' music as beautifully as one might hope for.  Music Director Laetitia Ruccolo really knows the piano, the instrument for which the music was originally written.

Granados was inspired by the paintings of Francisco Goya who depicted the bohemians of the 18th c.  --the  majos and majas of Madrid.  Librettist Fernando Periquet y Zuaznabar was obliged to fit the text to the melodies of Granados' previously written suite for piano.

The story is a simple one. One of the majos, the bullfighter Paquito, flirts with Rosario a woman of the upper classes, angering his girlfriend Pepa and enraging Rosario's high-born boyfriend Fernando. Fernando will let Rosario attend their dance but only if he comes as her protector. At the dance, the intrusion is resented and insults are exchanged. Paquito and Fernando fight; Fernando dies in Rosario's arms.

This is not the frothy plot of a zarzuela; it reminded us of how many operas have men killing each other, or at least threatening each other, over a flirtatious woman. Eugene Onegin comes to mind and Cavalleria Rusticana, among several others. We are here dealing with more than simple jealousy, however, since class issues are involved.  We wondered what would happen today if some Wall Street types crashed a party in the projects.

The four leads came across rather well with the standout being tenor Sean Christensen who sang with a full-throated tenor, much enlarged since we last heard him sing. Furthermore he seemed every inch an aristocrat, sneering disdainfully at the punk/majos.

Soprano Lauren Yokabaskas sang the role of Rosario and sang it well; she convinced us that she loved Fernando, even if she didn't convince him!  What was missing was an understanding of why and how she was flirting with Paquito or why she even wanted to attend the party. But the librettist didn't give us anything to go on. She was lovely in the wistful aria about the nightingale in the third scene and the subsequent duet when Fernando arrives, just before the fatal duel.

Hee-Pyoung Oh has a substantial baritone instrument and was quite convincing as the tough majo Paquito. He swaggered and threatened in a menacing manner which was quite different from the subtle threat and menace he portrayed when we heard him a couple months ago, singing the role of Giorgio Germont.

Molly Boggess as Pepa exhibited a fine mezzo-soprano and snarled in jealousy as her relationship with Paquito was threatened.

The work was fortunately sung in Spanish but our Latin American companion had as much trouble as we did understanding the Spanish. He also observed that the translation (by Angela Marroy Boerger) was often inaccurate. But the titles (Briana Hunter and Enrico Lagasca) were essential.

We agree with Bare Opera's goal of instituting innovations that make opera fresh and visceral, achieving intimacy in unorthodox spaces. Their first production took place in an art gallery. This production took place in a long narrow space (Bat Haus in Bushwick). The room was arranged so that everyone had a great view and a sense of intimacy, with the long side of the room providing a very wide but shallow playing space. Characters entered and exited by means of a staircase since there were no "wings". The orchestra was at the far end of the space. It all worked just fine. To our delight, we observed the mostly young audience enjoying themselves. Bare Opera is doing something right, selling out six performances. Tomorrow's matinée will have some of the same cast members and some different ones.
There was a stunning curtain raiser that served to set the mood. Excerpts from Isaac Albéniz' 1886 Suite Española filled the air with rhythm and color and the sounds of a guitar, imitated but not present. Stunningly choreographed by Liz Piccoli, who also served as Assistant Director, three dancers interpreted five of Albéniz' tributes to cities in Spain. Although our taste in dance runs heavily toward classical ballet, we were surprised to find so much to like in the dancing of Sharlane Conner (the girl in white), Tiger Brown (the girl in red) and Vivake Kamsingsavath (the boy in rags).

The dancing was varied and seemed to ride on the surface of the music as if it were being created spontaneously.  Ms. Conner is delicate but intense and uses her hands beautifully.  Ms. Brown is fiery and athletic with great leaps. Mr. Kamsingsavath showed great ease with the moves of hip-hop but made them artistic in "Castilla". There was a tender duet between him and Ms. Conner in "Granada". There was an interesting use of a rope as the three dancers seemed to work out their relationship with one another.  In "Asturia"  (our favorite) they were crowned with headgear made of tiny lights. In "Aragon", the crowns came off and the dancing became frisky and playful.

As much as we liked the dancing in Suite Española, we did not care for the dancers invading the space of Goyescas any more than the majos and majas enjoyed the invasion by the aristocrats.  We found it distracted us from the singing.

We were not pleased by the costuming. Obviously Costume Designer Laura Kung was going for a certain look but the costumes were not especially attractive and required even less attractive undergarments. Neither were we taken by her costumes for the women in Goyescas. According to the program notes, she had in mind the designs of Balenciaga for the aristocrats but we doubt that the audience would have been familiar with his work of that epoch. Fernando's black suit and shirt seemed just about right but Rosario's costume with loose plaid pants looked unflattering.

Stage Director Jonathan Warman elected to set the work in 1980, or at least to be inspired by Pedro Almodóvar's films of that period, when Franco's death in 1975 initiated repercussions of anarchic freedom, individuality, and the new wave of punk.

This is only the second production by Bare Opera which attempts to, and has succeeded at, providing a fresh modern take on the opera experience. Visual arts are put on equal standing with music. That doesn't mean that the set was lavish. There was only a small platform and a large banner proclaiming "Juventud Socialista Unida"...United Socialist Youth, as we translate it.

So yes, it was rather bare in framework but the dancing and singing made it a fine evening!

(c) meche kroop

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Samuel Levine and his baby factory in Les Mamelles de Tirésias--photo by Nan Melville

Cast of Der Kaiser von Atlantis--photo by Nan Melville

Neither work on Juilliard Opera's double-bill is frequently performed; both deserve to be. The program notes written by the wildly imaginative director Ted Huffman describe in detail the resonances between the two one-act operas. To us, they are both parables about war.  Francis Poulenc's wildly funny opéra bouffe, Les Mamelles de Tirésias,  was produced in 1947 but based upon a surrealistic 1917 play by Apollinaire.

Although it was written about World War I, it was perfectly suited to the post-World War II period. War tends to waste a country's resources, both capital and human; following wars there is an understandable "baby boom" as the countries involved must replace the population. As Shakespeare put it--"The world must be peopled".

The moral urging of Le Directeur who opens the show is to produce babies. In this role, baritone Theo Hoffman employed his fine baritone and considerable comedic acting skills.

In an interesting gloss on feminism, the heroine Thérèse, dissatisfied with her role as a woman, decides to become a man and takes the name Tirésias. She sacrifices her breasts, grows a beard, snatches a man's moustache, and plots to enter several male dominated professions. And this was long before gender altering surgery was performed.  How very prescient! Soprano Liv Redpath sang beautifully with a clear high soprano and generated sympathy for her character's ridiculous ambitions.

This abandonment of her wifely duties leaves her husband (Le Mari) no choice but to become a woman and make babies. Samuel Levine could not have been any better in this role, fighting off the advances of Le Gendarme who arrives on horseback. Fan Jia's baritone was perfect for this role. We have heard him sing in French before but had no idea he was a skilled comic actor.

You may be wondering how Le Mari made the babies.  Tens of thousands of them! He started what looked like a baby factory, that's how. And he decided to produce babies who would grow up to be in professions he needed. Again, a prescient idea to imagine in vitro pregnancies. And also a barbed reference to parents who try to control their offspring's life choices.

As two embattled friends arguing over gambling we heard the excellent tenor Matthew Swensen (Lacouf) and the equally excellent baritone Xiaomeng Zhang (Presto). We have no idea what these characters had to do with the story but the entire piece is surreal.

We recall seeing this opera at Juilliard about 3 years ago and we remember that it was cleverly directed and costumed--but also very different from this production. Samal Blak was responsible for the Scenic and Costume Design which was highly original. The very long credenza achieved multiple identities, even that of the baby factory from which Mr. Swenson crawled out in diapers. A large entrance area upstage contained a two-dimensional horse for Mr. Jia's arrival. Costumes were appropriate for the late 40's and were occasionally shed. It isn't often that one gets to see tenors in diapers, tenors in dresses,  baritones in boxers, and sopranos in scanties.

The libretto contained much wordplay that one might have missed if one did not speak French. Let us just say it was raunchy in spots. Director Ted Huffman did not miss a single opportunity for a sight gag and the audience shared some marvelous belly laughs.

Poulenc's music is eclectic and there was much jazz to be heard and references to other composers' works. We heard quite a bit of dance music--waltz and polka rhythms abounded. In the pit there was a lively young woman conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson, who brought out every ounce of delight in the score. In a serious moment we believe we heard presages of Dialogue des Carmélites which Poulenc would compose a decade later. The Juilliard Orchestra has no peer and performed beautifully under Ms. Wilson's baton.

Friday, November 20, 2015


The sterling cast of Angeline and Her Tattooed Man (photo by Jill LeVine)
Before you start wondering who composed an opera with such a strange name, let us come right out and tell you that the title represents two songs from operettas by Victor Herbert--"My Angeline" comes from the 1895 Wizard of the Nile, while "The Tattooed Man" comes from the 1897 The Idol's Eye. Both had lyrics by Harry B. Smith.

Only in New York could you find an organization devoted exclusively to the works of this seminal figure of the music theater world who achieved extraordinary popularity at the turn of the 20th c. Thanks to the tireless work of Artistic Director Alyce Mott, Victor Herbert Renaissance Project Live (hereinafter referred to as VHRP LIVE!) has spent the last 16 months reviving his reputation here in New York.

Mr. Herbert was born in Ireland, raised in Germany, and became a huge success in the United States. He began as a cellist and went on to become a teacher, a conductor, and a composer.  He has 2 operas and 43 operettas to his credit, not to mention instrumental music. We may think of him as a figure bridging the world of Viennese operetta and American musical comedy. The plots are silly but the music is glorious and the texts are often witty. What most impresses us is that, like Gilbert and Sullivan in England, he knew how to set the English language making use of clever rhymes.

Last night's program comprised nearly two dozen numbers drawn from 14 different operettas, selected on the basis of their tendency to provoke giggles, chuckles, and guffaws. The company has some fine singers, most of them operatically trained. Some of them we remembered well from last year's Naughty Marietta (review archived) and some of them known from Light Opera of New York (LOONY) an organization which also produces Mr. Herbert's works. We seem to be entering a period of Herbert Renaissance, as VHRP LIVE! has so named themselves.

Music Director Michael Thomas played Herbert's music with a light and lively touch and the singers appeared to be having a grand time. And of course, the audience did as well. Ms. Mott, wearing her Stage Director hat, kept things moving right along and Emily Cornelius' choreography produced a style that felt authentic. Although no one knows exactly what performances looked like over a century ago, everything about this production felt right, just the way we imagined it.

Erika Person made her company debut and revealed a fine aptitude for the style, probably based on her success with New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players. She had the fine diction and dramatic sense required for "Mrs. Grundy" from Old Dutch, a 1909 work.

Stephen Faulk, known from LOONY, performed the clever "I, and Myself, and Me", a clever ditty from the 1905 Wonderland that required him to exhibit three personalities. We seem to remember him singing with a brogue in last year's Naughty Marietta. David Seatter who also sings with LOONY entertained us with "That's Why They Say I'm Crazy" from the same work.

The lovely Sarah Caldwell Smith, who performed the lead in Naughty Marietta and has been seen in NYGASP productions, was delightful in "Always Do As People Say You Should" from the 1898 The Fortune Teller. Of course there was a clever twist in the last verse and she made the most of it.

Robert Balonek, known from Chelsea Opera, was hilarious as he sang about filling "The Shoes of Husband Number One" from the 1915 The Princess Pat.  Bray Wilkins performed "I Wish I Was an Island in an Ocean of Girls" from the same work.

Vira Slywotzky, known from Mirror Visions Ensemble, lent her large soprano to "Don José of Sevilla" from the 1897 The Serenade. She sang a duet called "Only in the Play" with Mr. Faulk that had a charm all its own.

There were a lot of jokes about women handling and mishandling men--and vice versa. One of those numbers "Make Him Guess" was performed by soprano Angela Christine Smith, a NYGASP and LOONY artist.

Katherine Corle and Mitchell Roe sang the cute duet "Love By Telephone" and we couldn't help wondering what a 21st c. librettist might write about love by internet. Oh, if only we had composers these days who could write a tune!

As for the Angeline of the program, she was a contortionist and a strange marital partner--a tale related by bass-baritone Matthew Wages, a Gilbert and Sullivan expert. And the catchy tune "The Tattooed Man" also belonged to him. Surprisingly, the two songs were not from the same operetta.

All of the voices were excellent and the singers knew how to get a song across. Our only reservation was that in the opening and closing choruses, the clever words got lost.

Coming in March will be Herbert's The Fortune Teller.  Save 3/9 and 3/10 for a guaranteed good time.

(c) meche kroop


Jacob Ingbar, Christine Oh, María Fernanda Brea, Mikaela Bennett

A liederabend at Juilliard is always an event. We often feel as if we are discovering the stars of tomorrow at the early stages of their careers and that is exciting. Yesterday we heard four undergraduates, each one a promising artist. We also heard a counter-tenor who is a post-graduate; but Jakub Jósef Orliński is already famous and missed the photo-op in order to make a plane to Europe where he is performing.

It was just a month ago that we heard and enjoyed his performance of some Italian baroque arias. Yesterday we heard him sing in French with a lovely tone that is youthful but never thin. He sang five songs by Reynaldo Hahn; we loved the way his floated top notes lingered in the air. Although the French line was perfectly legato, our favorite chanson was the lively "Fêtes Galantes".

Soprano María Fernanda Brea is well remembered from last summer's Fille du Regiment , in which she performed a charming Marie for Prelude to Performance (review archived). Yesterday she sang once again in French--Alfred Bachelet's "Chère nuit" in which she perfectly negotiated the dramatic upward leaps. There were also three fine songs by Massenet. We loved "Le printemps visite la terre". In the serenade "Nuit d'Espagne" collaborative pianist Valeriya Polunina varied her technique to provide suggestions of a guitar, sometimes strummed and sometimes plucked.

Baritone Jacob Ingbar not only has a pleasantly mellow sound but the gift of storytelling. He wisely chose Robert Schumann's Romanzen und Balladen Op. 53, comprising three stories requiring a hefty dose of dramatic interpretation which Mr. Ingbar handled expressively.  Kathryn Felt's piano was particularly lovely in "Loreley".

Soprano Christine Oh, accompanied by Jinhee Park, who has a soft touch on the keys, sang selections from Hugo Wolf's Italienisches Liederbuch. Ms. Oh has a fine vibrato and a voice that opens up on top like an umbrella. We wanted just a bit more expression in "Wie lange schon war immer mein Verlangen".  When the poet finally gets a musician boyfriend she might show a bit of dismay when he scrapes away at the violin.  Alternatively, she might blissfully ignore his ineptitude.  In either case, we want the singer to have a reaction. In  "Mein Liebster singt am Haus" the poet is given to adolescent hyperbole and we'd like to see more of the histrionics as she weeps a river of blood. Happily, Ms. Oh captured the humor of "Ich hab' in Penna einen Liebsten wohnen", the feminine equivalent of Leporello's "Catalogue aria".

Soprano Mikaela Bennett closed the program with four songs by André Previn. We have heard Ms. Bennett sing with NYFOS and were dazzled by her voice and stage presence as she sang American cabaret classics.  Yesterday she put heart and soul into Previn's songs but we could not say we liked the songs or wanted to hear them again. She sang "Do You Know Him?" a capella and once again impressed us with her tone and her phrasing as well as her commitment to the text. We were also impressed with her diction; every word was clear. Emil Duncumb was her collaborative pianist.

We applaud these young singers for their talent, for their hard work, and for the effort put into memorizing the material so that they could make excellent contact with the audience. There were some minor flaws in the nasal vowels of French and an occasional inconsistency with the final "ch" in German but the diction was always clear and the text well communicated.  Bravissimi!

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Sebastian Lambertz, Babette Hierholzer, Eva-Maria Summerer, Laure Barras
We feasted on music last night when the German Forum presented a most satisfying recital at the Library for Performing Arts. (We also feasted on hors d'oeuvres and libations but we won't go there!)

With the illustrious pianist Babette Hierholzer (Artistic Director of the German Forum) accompanying two superb singers and the welcome contributions of clarinetist Sebastian Lambertz, nothing was wanting in this celebration of German music.  The goal of the German Forum is to present outstanding young artists from the German-speaking world and, judging by the past couple recitals we've reviewed, they achieve this goal admirably.

President Henry Meyer-Oertel welcomed the audience and introduced the sponsors and notables in the audience as well as the young artists, and did so with grace and good humor which put everyone in the mood to have a good time. And so we did.

Swiss soprano Laure Barras opened the program with "Mein Herr Marquis" (otherwise known as Adele's "laughing song") from Johann Strauss' operetta Die Fledermaus. We have reviewed this very same aria twice already this week but let us say we heard it afresh from Ms. Barras.

What distinguishes her is not only the brightness and clarity of her voice but her total immersion in the character and the originality of her interpretation.  Her Adele was considerably inebriated but that did not result in careless diction.  Au contraire, every word was clear and, if you understood German, it was hilarious. And if you didn't understand the words, you could not fail to appreciate the facial expressions and gestures. The fioritura was as clear as champagne and just as bubbly.

And then along came dusky-voiced mezzo soprano Eva-Maria Summerer singing Prince Orlofsky's aria "Ich lade gern mir Gäaste ein" which we have always called "Chacun à son goût". If the entire recital had been from Die Fledermaus we would have not complained.  How delightful!

Clarinetist Sebastian Lambertz is performing his graduation recital from Mannes College on 12/4 and, in light of his enormous talent and onstage poise, we found it hard to believe that he is a student. He joined Ms. Hierholzer and Ms. Barras for the lyrical Schubert lied "Der Hirt auf dem Felsen", in which the clarinet echoes the voice. His lyricism was sustained throughout the register with dynamics under perfect control and some ear-tickling trills.

Dare we suggest that Ms. Barras' Swiss background gave her the edge in yodeling? Indeed, the way Schubert wrote it and the three artists performed it, one could easily visualize the lonely shepherd pining for his love in a distant inaccessible valley, with only the echo of the clarinet to keep him company.  Just listen to the joyous major key when he realizes that Spring is coming and the snow will melt and he will see his sweetheart once again. The increase in tempo translated into great excitement.

Mr. Lambertz had his solo moment at the end of the program when he switched to his A clarinet, performing Francis Poulenc's Sonata for clarinet and piano. He has a terrific technique and a most expressive lyricism. As one might have predicted, we favored the second movement "Romanza" in which one of the motifs reminded us of Prokofiev's music for the ballet--Romeo and Juliet. The final movement could only be described as frisky.

We felt fortunate to hear some duets, which we always enjoy. Yes, we heard "Abendsegen" from Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel und Gretel just a few days ago, but hearing it in perfect German was a special treat. We also enjoyed the scene of the presentation of the silver rose by young Octavian to Sophie, his cousin's intended bride. Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier has some gorgeous orchestral colors which Ms. Hierholzer captured in the piano. There is nothing as satisfying as two voices in harmony!

There were two humorous folksongs which Ms. Barras introduced with a most charming manner. We would wager that she has had quite a bit of dramatic training since she so effectively inhabits the character of the text--first the ambivalent Babette (!) from Haydn's "Eine sehr gewöhnliche Geschichte" and the pubescent girl of Brahms "Och Moder, ich well en Ding han". We are not sure what dialect of German that was but both songs were rendered with great humor.

Ms. Summerer also had her chance to sing with clarinet in Brahms' Zwei Gesänge op. 91, originally written for voice and viola. Her voice has a firmness and breadth in the lower register that is quite appealing.

We had only one minor quibble and we have been quibbling about this for quite some time. We would hope that singers would memorize their arias and not use music stands. The singers made much more of an impression when they sang "off book".

(c) meche kroop