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, April 5, 2014


Brandon Cedel, Lachlan Glen, Benjamin Bliss
When you put three artists from the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program onstage together, you get an hour of bliss--Bliss, Cedel and Glen that is!  All three conspired to amaze and delight us with their respective gifts.

We consider Lachlan Glen to be he finest pianist of his generation.  After a year of his Schubert recitals we are constantly amazed at how many other composers he has mastered, how many different styles at which he excels  and how readily he responds to every singer with whom he collaborates.  He is not only versatile but original.

Take for example last night's Purcell to whom he gave some  improvisatory flourishes; no one can say whether old Henry would have approved but our ears were tickled and we can honestly say that we have never enjoyed Purcell more.  The songs chosen by him and tenor Benjamin Bliss have graced many a program and have sounded rather similar and, dare we say, a bit boring.  But last night they sounded exciting in a way that baroque songs rarely do. 

Mr. Bliss has a lovely clear sound, impressive legato and flawless diction.  He sings with a depth of feeling, using facial expression and gesture to mine every nuance of the text.  "Come All Ye Songsters" from The Fairy Queen is a fragile thing and Mr. Glen's delicate fingering matched Mr. Bliss' pianissimo singing.  "Music For a While" from Oedipus was swoon-worthy with a secure crescendo at the beginning and some impressive singing in the upper register at the end.  Just hear how Mr. Bliss leaned into the appoggiature!   The lavish ornamentation in "Sweeter Than Roses" from Pausanias was reflected from singer to pianist and the word coloring for "freeze" and "fire" surpassed what one would hear in Mozart's "Non so piu".

Three songs by Franz Liszt were revelatory.  We generally associate that composer with passionate turbulent music and were amazed by his "Wie singt die Lerche Schön" which is in a tender vein and gave Mr. Bliss an opportunity to demonstrate a fine portamento.  In "Es rauschen die Winde", Mr. Bliss expressed the internal sorrows of loss while Mr. Glen's piano evinced the storm without.  We had never heard Liszt's setting of Heinrich Heine's "Im Rhein, im schönen Strome" but it is a thrilling one and Mr. Glen's fingers were flying from one end of the keyboard to the other in an orgy of arpeggiation.  Mr. Bliss' German was flawless.

Bass-Baritone Brandon Cedel just keeps getting better and better.  His deep round sound is balm to the ear and his fortuitous choice of Schumann's Liederkreis  gave him the opportunity to show a wide expanse of emotional tone.  The loneliness of "In der Fremde" was followed by the sweetness of "Intermezzo".  We particularly enjoyed the menace of "Waldesgespräch" with the seductive rider and the vengeful Lorelei.  In "Die Stille" Mr. Cedel conveyed the gentle rapture of love and Mr. Glen's delicate touch in "Mondnacht" was a thing of great beauty and joy forever, to coin a phrase.  Similarly he conveyed the rushing stream in "In der Fremde".

"Zwielicht" conveys the same fear of loss as Strauss' "Die Nacht" and Mr. Cedel and Mr. Glen gave the song a poignant ending as they did in "Im Walde" when Mr. Cedel descended to his lowest register.  Happily the cycle ended with a sanguine verse about love fulfilled and Mr. Cedel's voice opened up with joy.  We have only one small quibble about Mr. Cedel's otherwise fine German.  Like many singers, he seems timid about final "ch"s as in "ich" and "dich".  That would be a simple thing to correct and then we could say he was perfect.

© meche kroop


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