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, February 9, 2013


Susanna Phillips             Myra Huang                             
It's astonishing how a gifted artist can bring you to appreciate works you never enjoyed before!  We will come to that but let's begin at the end of the completely satisfying recital given at the perfectly intimate Weill Recital Hall.  Toward the end of the encore, Peter DeRose's "Deep Purple", Ms. Phillips lost control of her emotions and could barely finish, eyes swimming with tears.  Having established incredible rapport with the audience all evening and having explained that her grandfather had sung that song for her about her grandmother, it came as no surprise that the audience went right along on her journey.  The standing ovation from the audience, fugitives from the blizzard outside, exceeded the standing ovation she received after the final set of songs.

And what a set that was!  Ms. Phillips clearly enjoyed singing the selections from Do You Sing, Mr. Twain? by the late Gordon Myers.  Eight pithy aphorisms were rather simply set with the exception of the final one, "On Rules of Writing" an ironic piece extolling brevity but marked by florid pianism and vocalism exceeding that of the baroque and bel canto periods.  Ms. Phillips and her dazzling piano partner Myra Huang had a ball with this as did the audience.

In fine French style, the pair delighted us with four Chausson songs, each a delicate gem, all sad and nostalgic.  Equally fine were "Ellens Gesang I, II and III" by Schubert, settings from Sir Walter Scott's The Lady of the Lake, the final selection being the famous "Ave Maria".  These were followed by Alban Berg's Sieben frühe Lieder, songs we have previously found rather inaccessible.  Ms. Phillips' and Ms. Huang's artistry managed to bring out melodic elements heretofore unnoticed and we were filled with delight and gratitude; we are looking forward to hearing them again.  We do wish, however, that Ms. Phillips would pay more attention to the final consonants in German.  The d's and t's were firmly enunciated but the final "en"s were sometimes lost which would drive a native German speaker a bit crazy.

Our two artists spent a great deal of time and effort on Olivier Messsiaen's  Poemes pour Mi, Book II.  They are obviously highly meaningful to the pair but were somewhat less enchanting to us, both in subject matter and musical values.  Those who read Voce di Meche regularly will recall how essential melody is to our ears.  Still, we were riveted by the sincerity of the performance and would be willing to give the songs a second hearing.  Indeed, there are many works that grow on one with successive exposures.

No such forbearance was needed for the set of songs by Enrique Granados!  We adore the sound and style of the Spanish language and the attention the composer gave to melody.  The performance was charming and during the final selection, Ms. Huang distinguished herself with some very vibrant piano playing.

Taken as a whole, the recital was finely structured--some well-known favorites, some lesser-known works by well-known composers, some challenging pieces, some accessible ones, and some we've never heard before.  We have observed Ms. Phillips' artistic growth for several year now and and have always enjoyed her performances on the opera stage.  Indeed, we are anticipating a splendid performance as the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro in Santa Fe this summer.  But it was a special treat to see her on the recital stage, being her charming engaging self.

(c) meche kroop

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