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.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Franz Schubert
The joint inspiration of pianists Lachlan Glen and Jonathan Ware, Schubert&Co. plans to present every single lied written by Schubert over the course of the 2012-2013 season.  Has this ever been done before?  Will it ever be done again?  No matter, it is being done NOW and we lied lovers in New York are the lucky beneficiaries.  The plan is to present the work according to the poet whose work he set.  What is obvious right from the start is that Schubert had a wealth of good poetry from which to choose, poetry that scans and rhymes.  We have noted sourly that contemporary poetry has made some pretty unsingable songs.

The series got off to a scintillating start with two fine rising stars of the vocal scene bringing to life a potpourri of songs set to different poets, an exception to the plan for the remainder of the series.  Australian soprano Simone Easthope has a sparkly champagne voice and some mighty fine interpretive skills which were shared by bass-baritone Evan Hughes whose voice made me think of deep dark coffee with a layer of cream on top.

Lindemann Young Artist Mr. Hughes opened the program with "Selige Welt" (Johann Senn); we thought that his second offering "An die Musik" (Franz von Schober) would have made a better opener since it is an ode to the art of music and defines the entire project.  Mr. Hughes' commitment to the art of music is evident in every phrase he sings; his involvement with the song and his communicative skills never flag.

The same could be said of Ms. Easthope whose interpretation of Goethe's poetry was outstanding as are her vocal skills.  We were particularly taken with "Der Tod und das Mädchen" (Claudius) which was performed by both singers, an unusual move which was effectively heart-wrenching.

Two of Metastasio's "Drei Gesänge" were sung by Mr. Hughes and it was a pleasure to see that his Italian is just as fine as his German.  Lachlan Glen was a consistently sensitive piano partner.

It was such a privilege to hear Schubert songs that are rarely performed but an even greater one to hear our favorites given new life.  Mr. Hughes' "Erlkönig" was stunning and resulted in some very prolonged applause by the attentive audience.  This also gave piano partner Jonathan Ware an opportunity to show his pianistic chops.  Ms. Easthope impressed with an absolutely lovely gradual crescendo in Goethe's Wilhelm Meister songs.  Who would not be brought to their knees by "Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt" and "Kennst du das Land"!

The series continues with two recitals Saturday.  Stay tuned!

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