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, August 13, 2013
Helmed by Artistic Director Joseph Illick, the Santa Fe Concert Association has taken advantage of Paul Appleby's presence in Santa Fe and presented him in an incomparable recital last Sunday. For his theme, Mr. Appleby chose "Serenades". One thinks of a serenade as a song designed to get the listener to join the serenader. Mr. Appleby did exactly that. His friendly unassuming manner invariably invites the members of the audience to join him on his journey. We loved the way he introduced each serenade; this was of great benefit to those in the audience who may have been less familiar with the songs than we are. His sweet ringing tenor was put to fine use in the opening song, Schubert's Standchen" from his cycle Schwanengesang. Accompanied by Mr. Illick himself, the tempo was taken rather slowly and this tender but passionate verse by Ludwig Rellstab took on a new darker meaning with the artists' emphasis on the major/minor shifts. On the other hand, Brahm's sunny "Standchen" was performed with lighthearted humor. Hugo Wolf's "Das Standchen" was the only one of the group that was retrospective; an elderly man observes with nostalgia a young man serenading his beloved. Strauss' more familiar serenade was filled with the anticipation of a joyful reunion. All four of these serenades were performed with a deep connection to the material, a responsiveness to the audience and a delightful intimacy that worked well with the small-sized hall at the Scottish Rite Center. Mr. Appleby's German was impeccable. His French was equally fine in the delicate "Serenade Florentine" by Henri Duparc--a song in an entirely different mood that Mr. Appleby conveyed beautifully with a complete change of color. Carlo Pedrotti's "Serenata" was of a different ilk, seductive as only Italian can be. Mascagni's "Serenata", on the other hand, was performed with a sense of mystery. There was nothing mysterious about Tchaikovsky's "Don Juan's Serenade". Here the singer must deliver Tolstoy's intense verses with true Russian passion. The poet is more demanding than seductive and ready to die in a duel for his love object. Mr. Appleby handled every one of these diverse moods with consummate artistry. The major work of the recital and perhaps the inspiration for it as well was Britten's "Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings" the score of which Mr. Illick himself reduced for string quintet and horn. This cycle comprises a setting of a collection of poems by various British poets. There was a great deal going on within the instrumentalists which tended to distract from the singing. We were particularly taken with an opening horn call played on a "natural horn", the valveless ancestor of the modern French Horn, which displays a bright and distinctive sound. Played by Gabriella Finck, the stirring horn call was happily heard at the close of the piece--this time from up in the balcony. There was considerable pizzicato playing, not only in the strings but also on the horn. As an encore, Mr. Appleby sang an aubade--a song sung at dawn. The hero of Lalo's opera Le Roi d'Ys is making a full-throated address to his beloved in anticipation of their wedding. It was a fine conclusion to a stellar recital. We have observed Mr. A's growth as an artist over the past few years and have never heard him give a performance that was shy of excellence. We are looking forward to seeing him onstage at the Santa Fe Opera as he performs the role of Fritz in Offenbach's La Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein. This recital is only the first program in SFCA's Festival of Song. Lest we leave you thinking that is all that SFCA does, let it be known that this worthy organization brings all kinds of notable musicians to Santa Fe, not to mention ballet and lectures. Moreover, they have established programs to bring art education to schools in the area and provide scholarships. The "City Different" is fortunate to have such an institution. Stay tuned for more reviews!