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, December 2, 2014


Hyona Kim, Bretton Brown and Tami Petty

"The Bohemians" have been around for over a century fostering music in New York City.  Last night they collaborated with "Joy in Singing" to present a pair of stunning singers with a highly sensitive collaborative pianist at the keyboard.

It would seem that "Joy in Singing", only around for half as long as "The Bohemians", chooses singers of a certain type to award.  The two singers we heard last night, while having two very different voices, exhibited a commonality of quality that was impressive to say the least.  What they seem to go for is a style we much admire in lieder singing; we perceived an urge to communicate the meaning of the text with consummate expression but without fussiness.  Both singers employed tasteful gesture and facial expression to augment their story-telling skills.

At no time was vocal technique compromised.  Tones were rendered with purity and just the right amount of vibrato.  Diction was perfect with every word comprehensible; vowels were given full value without sacrificing the crispness of the consonants.  Variety was achieved by admirable dynamic control and appropriate coloration of the words.  Phrasing was always meaningful.

Soprano Tami Petty has a sizable instrument that is never unwieldy but always under perfect control.  There is a lovely lustre to it and an ear-tickling spin especially in her soaring upper register.  If ever a voice was made for Strauss, it is hers.

Mezzo-soprano Hyona Kim has a rich and chocolatey sound, one with weight and texture that never impairs her flexibility. Her long legato lines gave the German the feel of Italian without compromising her perfect diction.

The program included only two composer--Richard Strauss, about whom little needs to be said, and Joseph Marx, an Austrian born a generation after Strauss.  He wrote 150 songs in his youth, at the beginning of the 20th c., meaning that although junior to Strauss, he was composing earlier than many of Strauss' songs were composed. Sadly, few have been published or recorded.  This made their hearing even more precious.

The program sustained interest by creating a variety of moods.  Ms. Petty readily shifted gears from the rapturous "Du meines Herzens Krönelein" to the light-hearted enthusiasm of "All mein Gedanken" (texts by Dahn) to the ethereal "Schön sind, doch kalt die Himmelssterne" (text by Schack).  But the Strauss song we most enjoyed was "Schlechtes Wetter"(text by Heine) in which pianist Bretton Brown created quite a storm, surpassing the rain outside the window.  On the other hand, we absolutely loved what she did with the very funny "Für funfzehn Pfennige" from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, a biting argument between an importuning lover and a disdainful girl.

As far as humor goes, Ms. Kim gave a delightful rendering of "Hat gesagt--bleibts nicht dabei" from the same cycle.  Yet she could move us to tears with the sad "Befreit" about the release of death.  She impressed us equally with her delivery of the Marx songs.  In "Lieder" (text by Morgenstern), she painted lovely pictures of elements of nature, with ample help from Mr. Brown.  Mr. Brown's introduction to "Valse de Chopin" (text by Hartleben after Giraud) was glorious. The lovely "Japanisches Regenlied" delighted us as well.

Ms. Petty also got a crack at Marx's songs and our favorite was the rapturous "Und gestern hat er mich Rosen gebracht" (text by Lingen).   Ms. Petty's gift is that she brings the audience into her emotional experience, or rather the experience of the poet which she recreates for the listener.  We could smell the roses along with her and feel the rapture of being adored.  

Mr. Bretton was an equal partner in this outstanding recital.  Being less than familiar with Marx we were dazzled by his piano writing, especially in "Nocturne" (text by Hartleben) which so beautifully set the stage for Ms. Petty's singing, and likewise in "Die Liebste spricht" (text by Heyse).  Not that Strauss' piano writing was any less glorious.  The minor key arpeggii in "Befreit" were the perfect introduction for Ms. Kim's singing.

Both of these singers have been amply rewarded by the entities that grant such awards by competition; they seem destined for major careers and we feel privileged to have heard them in the intimate environment of the Kosciuszko Foundation.  Viva Joy.  Viva Singing.  Viva Joy in Singing!

© meche kroop

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