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.

Sunday, January 3, 2016


William Kelley and Christopher Dylan Herbert

A perfectly polished performance of Schubert's masterpiece Winterreise was given yesterday by baritone Christopher Dylan Herbert and his collaborative pianist William Kelley at St. Paul's Chapel, as part of their Twelfth Night Festival. The capacity audience was held spellbound for over an hour as they lived through the sorrowful journey of a bereft young man, a journey through a cold and forbidding landscape which offers little comfort.

There isn't much we haven't already written about this Romantic period gem, a setting of a cycle of poems by Wilhelm Müller. What is significant for us is that each time we hear it, we hear something new, depending upon the specific artistry of the performers. Mr. Herbert is a very special artist, bringing to the work some rather intense scholarship and a deep understanding of the text.

He has a reserved stage presence, economic of gesture but generous with vocal shadings. His German is excellent with no consonant slurred over, yet without overly punctilious pronunciation. His musicianship and phrasing leave nothing to be desired.  His lyric baritone is warm and pleasing to the ear.

Mr. Kelley is an expressive pianist of great sensitivity. Just as Müller's poetry describes many sorrowful natural and symbolic observations, and Schubert's vocal line evokes many colors of despair for the singer to limn, so Schubert's piano writing brings forth every element of nature--the subject's pounding heart, the frozen landscape, the blustery winds, the frost on the windows, the menacing crow, the post carriage, the hoofbeats, the dangling leaf. Mr. Kelley limned every one of them.

We wish we could share with you readers the well-thought-out essay on the piece written by Mr. Herbert. What we will share is our agreement with his point of view that youth is no barrier to tackle this major work. Nor would it be a barrier to being affected by it.  Who has not lost love? Who has not contemplated self-annihilation?  Is the young man indulging in histrionics?  Is he a product of 19th c. Romanticism?

The way Mr. Herbert sang his words and Mr. Kelley played Schubert's music, we decided he was quite unbalanced, perhaps suffering from Manic Depressive Illness. The rapid major-minor shifts indicate an unsettled nature, as do the unresolved chords.

And so, we listen, we feel touched in our hearts, we wish to comfort those who cannot find comfort, we think of creative solutions to life's blows. Schubert's music is indeed inspiring and magical!

(c) meche kroop

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