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.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Peter Dugan, Dave Baron, Leonardo Dugan

This is the time of year when music students are called upon to give a recital as partial requirement for their degrees.  This is the time of year when we are overjoyed to see them move on to establish their careers.  This is the time of year when we feel twinges of sadness, wondering when we will have the opportunity to see/hear them again.

On Monday, piano wizard Peter Dugan took this opportunity to show his amazing versatility.  He is indeed a quadruple threat:  soloist, collaborative pianist, arranger and jazz musician. He greeted the audience with warmth and told of the seven years at Juilliard, culminating in a Master of Music Degree.  He opened with Beethoven and closed with The Isley Brothers. His theme for the recital was music for the night.  Let's take a closer look.

He began Beethoven's "Moonlight" sonata at a rather rapid tempo, more rapid than we have been accustomed to, and there was an indefinable hesitancy.  It was in the rhythmic second movement that he got into his groove and demonstrated fine dynamic control.  By the time he got to the third movement his flying fingers gave evidence of mastery.  The air literally crackled with excitement.  He absolutely nailed this difficult movement with his virtuosity.

"Deux Nocturnes" by Chopin showed a different side to his artistry with thoughtful limning of Chopin's mournful melodies and nationalistic themes.

Lovely mezzo-soprano Kara Sainz joined Mr. Dugan for Brahms's  "Gestillte Sehnsucht" which she sang with deep feeling and crisp German.  A. J. Nilles added to the beauty with some sweet viola playing that gave the lie to all those viola jokes.

Baritone Tobias Greenhalgh lent his expressive voice and dramatic artistry to Schubert's "Der Doppelgänger", confirming our impression that he excels at the mysterious and creepy. (See review of Mörike lieder.) We consider ourselves fortunate to have heard his powerful voice two nights in a row!

Mr. Greenhalgh was joined by Ms. Sainz for Schumann's "In der Nacht" just after Mr. Dugan played a piece by the same composer with the same title, from Fantasiestücke.  The duet was new to us and we loved the way the voices harmonized at times and at other times overlapped.  What a superb choice!

For Rachmaninoff's "La nuit...L'amour" from Suite No. 1 for Two Pianos, Op.5, Mr. Dugan was joined by his piano teacher Matti Raekallio who must be bursting with pride.  This is a luscious work for four hands and seemed to envelop us with sound.

The final "act" of this varied recital permitted Mr. Dugan to show off his skills at arranging.  For Jimmy Forrest's "Night Train", he was joined by Leonardo Dugan on saxophone, Dave Baron on bass and Will Kain on drums.  Paul McCartney's "Blackbird" was given a most unusual and fascinating arrangement with Charles Yang plucking his violin strings to make some avian sounds and the piano doing some bluesy jazzy riffs.

To come full circle, Alice Cooper's "Welcome to my Nightmare" made references to the Beethoven with which the recital began, drawing the program to a satisfying conclusion--but not before an encore of The Isley Brothers' "Don't Say Goodnight When It's Time For Love".

© meche kroop

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