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 11, 2015


Lachlan Glen, Dimitri Dover, Brandon Cedel, and Mary-Jane Lee

We await the annual Lindemann Recitals with great anticipation and we have never been disappointed.  Yesterday's recital was filled with delights both familiar and new. As much as we love to be turned on to works we've never heard, we get even greater pleasure when an artist gets us to understand works we've never favored.

Such was the case when soprano Mary-Jane Lee sang Alban Berg's Sieben Frühe Lieder, accompanied by Dimitri Dover. We have always found these songs inaccessible but Ms. Lee, by some alchemical process, managed to get inside the songs and to convey what we have never heard before. 

Ms. Lee has a soaring soprano that dazzles in the upper register.  But she also has an engaging manner and musicianship that made sense of Berg's strange vocal lines; they became rather haunting. Although our favorite will always be the melodic "Die Nachtigall" we also enjoyed the gemütlich atmosphere of "Im Zimmer".

Mr. Dover's immense contribution was to bring out the connection between the vocal line and the piano part. We also enjoyed his fine pianism in a later set of Rachmaninoff songs.  In "At night in my Garden" he established the mood of the sad weeping willow even before Ms. Lee began to tell the tale. His playing of the prelude of "In the silence of the secret night" was lavishly romantic.

As far as Ms. Lee's Russian diction, our Russian-speaking companion declared it very good.  Surely it sounded just fine to us!

The other artists on the program also excelled.  Bass-baritone Brandon Cedel formed a perfect partnership with collaborative pianist Lachlan Glen; they seemed to inhale and exhale in unison and we would swear that Mr. Glen was singing along in his head!

The most challenging work on the program was Schumann's lengthy ballad "Belsatzar" and Mr. Cedel confirmed our confidence in him as a master storyteller. The tale he told was one written by Heinrich Heine about an evil king and some mysterious handwriting on the wall. We still have goosebumps.

Mr. Cedel has a wonderful instrument of depth and amplitude with a finely textured vibrato, so different from the burly type. This allows him to sing more delicate songs like those in his first set which he performed with refinement and polish, achieving expressiveness with an economy of gesture.

We have never heard a man sing Mahler's  "Liebst du um Schönheit" and never even thought of it, but Mr. Cedel's delivery was heartfelt and meaningful. We loved Mr. Glen's pianistic passion in Schumann's "Requiem", quite a change from the delicate sensitivity displayed in the other songs.

This perfect pair closed the recital with a trio of Mahler songs. We have never had a problem relating to Mahler's output so we just relaxed and enjoyed "Um Mitternacht" with the haunting minor thirds in the piano. Mahler was surely inspired by Friedrich Rückert's poetry.

In "Urlicht" the piano and voice both reflected a depth of spiritual feeling. The pace was leisurely but the colors shifted rapidly. The final song was "Revelge" a story of the horrors of war told in march tempo. Mr. Glen's piano became wild and passionate. Mr. Cedel's performance was chilling in its effect. We believe that Mahler wanted us to feel horrified and the artists succeeded admirably.

All four artists have earned awards and recognition here and abroad. But what really matters to the audience is how they perform onstage at that particular moment. No one left disappointed.

(c) meche kroop

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