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, April 14, 2014


 Dominic Armstrong, Miori Sugiyama, Nell Snaidas, Tobias Greenhalgh, Julius Abrahams      

German Romantic poet Eduard Mörike was as prolific a poet as Hugo Wolf was a composer of lieder.  He was no longer alive when Wolf published his first songbook comprising 53 lieder, all settings of texts by Mörike.  We think, had he heard them, he would have been pleased by the composer's attention to detail and to the diverse moods of the songs, be they serious, funny, pious or fragile.  It is astonishing to learn that Wolf composed them all in a few brief months.

And if Wolf were alive, we think he would have been thrilled that the Brooklyn Art Song Society was devoting two very special evenings to these songs.  And we ourselves were thrilled to hear the songs inhabited by three superb singers, accompanied by two fine collaborative pianists.

A wise choice to open the program, baritone Tobias Greenhalgh impressed us, not only with his enviable technique and skill at conveying the depths of the songs but also because he took the time to learn them and sang "off the book".  Although the other singers managed to convey a lot of feeling "on the book" we personally find that the connection with the audience is impaired in such cases.  We are fully cognizant of the fact that time to memorize songs cannot always be found, especially when time is short; nonetheless, we admire the effort it takes to memorize and relish the connection the singer can establish with the audience.

Of the ten songs Mr. Greenhalgh sang, our personal favorite was "Die Geister Am Mummelsee" in which he enraptured us with a ghostlike tale, infusing his story-telling with both mystery and horror.  His "Peregrina I" and "Peregrina II" were filled with passion, "An die Geliebte" was filled with reverence for the beloved, and "Heimweh", with alienation.  At the phrase "Die Augen gehn mir über", our own eyes nearly spilled over.

Along with his intense involvement with the text and his innate musicality, Mr. Greenhalgh has a voice of gorgeous timbre and a fine command of German.  The Theater an der Wien made an excellent choice in offering him a contract but we will miss him in New York.

Julius Abrahams accompanied Mr. Greenhalgh in the first half of the recital and we loved the way he played the prelude of "Lied Eines Verliebten" and the expressiveness in the minor key of "Bei Einer Trauung".  Mr. Abrahams also accompanied soprano Nell Snaidas in this part of the evening.

Ms. Snaidas has an exciting soprano with interesting overtones and knows how to color different voices successfully as she did in "Der Knabe und das Immlein".  We always knew what lads sound like but now we know how a bee would sound if he could sing!

We also enjoyed her "Nixe Binsefuss" in which she colored her voice to sound very elfin.  What holding the book prevented her from accomplishing with body and gesture, she achieved with her voice.  Mr. Abrahams was right with her on the piano bringing out the fairy-like writing of Herr Wolf.

In the second half of the program, the collaborative pianist was Miori Sugiyama.   We enjoyed Ms. Snaidas in the timely but brief "Er ists" and the sorrowful "Das verlassene Mägdlein""Ein Stündlein wohl vor Tag" was another lament on the theme of a mistreated maiden and equally sorrowful.  In "Begegnung" Ms. Sugiyama created a perfect storm on the piano.

The other singer heard on the second half of the program was the brilliant tenor Dominic Armstrong, heard and reviewed a week ago.  We will always jump at any opportunity to hear his clarion voice and to experience the depth of his feeling.  He is a fine actor and managed to hold his book in one hand and to gesture dramatically with the other. 

We loved the adorable song "Auftrag" in which the poet pours his heart out toward the woman who has failed to write to him.  We were moved by the tragic irony of "Auf ein altes Bild" and loved the delicate filigree of "Auf eine Christblume II".  

But it was the three humorous songs bringing the evening to a close that we enjoyed the most, since Mr. Armstrong has a fine flair for comedy.  "Selbstgeständnis" is the tale of a child whose siblings have all left home; he alone has the burden of all the love and duty.  "Zur Warnung" tells the tale of a very bad hangover and "Abschied" relates the poets manner of handling his critics.  Mr. Armstrong sure knows how to tell a story.

Should you be regretting missing this fine program, Mike Brofman, Founder and Artistic Director of BASS, informed us that the remainder of the Mörike lieder will be performed on June 6th.  Not only the wonderful music but the gifted artists Mr. Brofman attracts make it very worthwhile to make the trip to Brooklyn.  And if you live in Brooklyn, so much the better!

© meche kroop

No comments:

Post a Comment