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.

Monday, December 2, 2013


Dominic Armstrong, Michael Brofman, Ty Jones, John Brancy, Peter Dugan
Yesterday's recital by the Brooklyn Art Song Society offered a number of delights--the opportunity to hear a rarely performed song cycle composed by Brahms in the 1860's, two gifted lieder interpreters and two equally impressive piano partners, plus the dramatic narration of plummy-voiced actor Ty Jones.  The song cycle Die Schöne Magelone is a setting of texts by Johann Ludwig Tieck--a group of intentionally archaic poems telling a somewhat extended tale of a medieval knight, Count Peter of Provence, his courtship of Princess Magelone of Naples, and the trials and tribulations of their separation and eventual reuniting. There are interesting symbolic elements, including three golden rings given Peter by his mother that he bestows upon Magelone only to have them wind up in the belly of a fish back at Peter's chateau. Shades of Des Knaben Wunderhorn!

There are 15 lovely songs in all; the narration was translated into English and recited by Mr. Jones while the songs themselves served to express the feelings of longing, love, sorrow and joy.  George London Foundation winners tenor Dominic Armstrong and baritone John Brancy performed the songs with beautiful tone and phrasing as well as total commitment to the material.  We noticed just one tiny flaw in Mr. Armstrong's performance which a non-speaker of German would not have observed.  "Ich" appears in so many German words and was often rendered as "ick"; this should be remedied. Otherwise, both singers had a fine command of the language.

Mr. Brancy was accompanied by Peter Dugan whose expressive pianism worked very well with Mr. Brancy's heartfelt delivery.  When Sir Peter gallops away from home, Brahms has provided a galloping rhythm in the piano.  In "Sind es Schmerzen, sind es Freuden" the two artists matched each other in sweetness.  In "Ruhe, Sussliebchen im Schatten" the lilt of this tender lullaby with its descending line reminded us of a barcarolle.  For "Wie schnell verschwindet" Mr. Brancy surprised us by singing the voice of the princess with its stratospheric tessitura in falsetto.

Mr. Armstrong's piano partner was Michael Brofman himself, Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Art Song Society.  They distinguished themselves in the strophic "Liebe kam aus fernen Landen" and in the two sanguine penultimate songs "Geliebter, wo zaudert" and "Wie froh und frisch mein Sinn sich hebt".

If you were unfortunate enough to have missed this stellar afternoon, there are a number of recordings and we recommend those by Peter Schrier and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.  There will be several more recitals this season by the ambitious Brooklyn Art Song Society and if you are a lover of lieder, you are sure to be satisfied.

© meche kroop

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