|Heidi Stober (photo by Simon Pauly)|
Her New York recital debut at Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall revealed her artistry as a recitalist. She spoke readily of her joy as mother to a two-year-old and, indeed, based much of her recital on that premise.
Her bright and penetrating instrument is particularly suited to Strauss and her set of songs by that composer comprised songs that referred directly to motherhood like that amusing narrative "Muttertänderlei" in which a mother boasts of her very special child, the worshipful "Meinem Kinde", and "Jungenhexenlied", the charming tale of a young witch racing home to her little boy.
More of a stretch in terms of interpretation were "Ich trage meine Minne" and "Mein Auge" which we had always thought referred more to romantic love. Never mind! It all worked out well and now we have an interesting new way to hear these lovely songs.
Speaking of a stretch, we could not fathom the connection between the five excellent Schubert songs in the next set. Ms. Stober told the audience that her collaborative pianist, the affable and sensitive Craig Terry, came up with the idea of providing a backstory and sequel to "Der Zwerg".
Here-- a "Gute Nacht" from Winterreise. There-- an "Am Feierabend" from Die Schöne Müllerin. Then the lovely waltzy "Auf dem Wasser zu singen" and--as postlude "Im Abendrot" with its profoundly spiritual nature.
Ms. Stober is a born storyteller and each song was compelling and deeply felt. But they did not add up to a narrative. We mostly enjoyed "Am Feierabend" as Ms. Stober colored her voice differently for the young poet/apprentice, his miller/boss, and the miller's daughter.
Four selections from Debussy's Ariettes oubliées were sung in fine French with long languorous lines except for the passionate climaxes. We heard "C'est l'extase", "Il pleure dans mon coeur", "Spleen", and (our favorite) the lively "Chevaux de bois" which injected welcome variety.
Selections from Jake Heggie's From the Book of Nightmares belong to that category of contemporary works that make us wonder why a composer would choose such unmusical poetry (by Vermont poet laureate Galway Kinnell). Heggie's writing for piano and cello was most interesting with David Heiss bringing out the interest in the cello line and Mr. Terry doing the same on the piano. But the vocal line did not "sing" although Ms. Stober brought all her artistry to the table.
The final set had the theme of Ms. Stober's home state--Wisconsin. The most substantial work was Cécile Chaminade's wonderful "Chanson de neige" in which Ms. Stober heightened the emotions almost to the point of irony.
Max Reger's "Die bunten Kühe" brought in some light-hearted humor. Henry Leland Clarke's "Of Cheese" struck us as trivial. Alec Wilder's "Milwaukee" was fun and in the jazz-pop mode.
It was a generous recital given by a beautiful star who comes across as the girl next door. This girl next door graced the audience with yet one more song. As encore, she continued the motherhood theme with "This Child is Born" with music by Thad Jones and lyrics by Alec Wilder.
(c) meche kroop