As a rule we do not review rehearsals, but tomorrow's performance of ASPS (The Art Song Preservation Society) conflicts with a prior reviewing commitment and we did not want to miss the opportunity of hearing soprano Winnie Nieh singing some of our favorite lieder, with the esteemed Thomas Muraco as her collaborative pianist.
Any afficionado of art song would be delighted by the program and we sincerely wish that all of you will be able to squeeze into Christ and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church on W. 69th St. for the 3:00 recital. From what we witnessed yesterday, the program promises to provide deep aural and emotional satisfaction.
We know Ms. Nieh from her several performances with Utopia Opera and are so glad that she keeps garnering prizes and interesting roles. She is an emerging artist with a great deal going for her. Her voice is pure, sweet, and well-focused--able to soar above piano or orchestra. Her German is as good as it gets with every word understandable.
In the set of songs by Franz Schubert, we had trouble choosing a favorite, since each one brought out different colors. In "Im Frühling", Schubert switches between major and minor and Ms. Nieh colored her voice appropriately for this bittersweet tale of love and sorrow.
In the contemplative "Nacht und Träume", Mr. Muraco's playing had a spiritual feeling. He emphasized the key change, a subtle but nonetheless jolting modulation--and Ms. Nieh matched him perfectly.
The rhythmic "Der Musensohn" made us want to get up and dance and the tender "Sei mir gegrüsst" brought tears to our eyes. And if you are unable to feel for the young lady confiding her woes to her mother in "Die Männer sind méchant", you were never a teenager! This song truly allowed Ms. Nieh's acting skills to emerge.
A set of Hugo Wolf songs, with texts by Eduard Mörike, filled us with delight. "Der Knabe und das Immlein" is a real charmer and Mr. Muraco's piano provided the buzzing bee. The humorous play on words in "Elfenlied" provided further pleasures, as did the playful "Mausfallen-Sprüchlein". The two artists excelled in "Nixe Binsefuss" with Mr. Muraco playing what we called "fairy music" when we were small.
That was fine to end on because earlier we were close to weeping again when the pair performed "Das verlassene Mägdlein", one of the saddest songs with which we are familiar. Again, Ms. Nieh's fine acting put the song across just as Wolf intended. The attention to text and music vividly brought the picture to the mind's eye.
Mezzo-soprano Emily d'Angelo, a Metropolitan Opera National Council Award winner, will be performing some of our favorite songs by Brahms and this should bring further delights which we regret we will miss.
The second half of the program will be sung in French with Thomas Grubb taking over as collaborative pianist. Mezzo-soprano Sahoko Sato Timpone will sing selections from Hector Berlioz' Les Nuits d'Eté with text by Théophile Gautier and La Chanson d'Eve by Gabriel Fauré.
Baritone Robert Brandt will perform selections from Maurice Ravel's Deux Epigrammes de Clément Marot and from Histoires Naturelles.
It promises to be a most worthwhile afternoon! ASPS exists to promote the art song repertoire and the artists that perform it. We love their motto--"Where music speaks and words sing". Most apt.
(c) meche kroop