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.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Jestin Pieper, Laura Strickling, and Christopher Reames (photo by Harold Levine)

Only a couple dozen lucky lieder lovers got to experience the rewarding vocal recital offered by Joy in Singing. Joy in Singing offers awards and performance opportunities to young artists and very entertaining recitals which bring ever more people into the circle of song lovers. Lieder were meant to be heard in such an intimate environment and we felt transported a century back in time when life seemed somehow more artistic.

We were so excited to hear more of soprano Laura Strickling whose Strauss so impressed us last week at the Brooklyn Art Song Society.  And we heard tenor Christopher Reames for the first time; we hope we will have further opportunities since his lovely instrument and lively personality are perfectly suited to the art form.

Ms. Strickling has as much artistry in her presentation as she has beauty in her voice. It's a sizable instrument with a lot of power which she successfully modulated to fit the size of the room. There was but one Strauss song on the program--"Kling", an upbeat affair in which the artist could let loose her amplitude.

But she showed several other aspects of her prodigious talent. She sang Francis Poulenc's "Fleurs" with a depth of feeling and some fine French phrasing. But her favorite was also our favorite; it was Alfred Bachelet's "Chère Nuit" which was popularized by Nellie Melba. It's always such a pleasure to hear French songs correctly sung with evenness of line but without the effeteness that leaves us bored.

Mr. Reames has a sweetness of voice that stood out in his performance of Claude Debussy's "Fantoches". One very fine aspect of this recital was that each performer introduced his/her own songs and shared with us some anecdotal material. As Mr. Reames pointed out, "Fantoches" is part of the 1908 cycle Fête Galant, and the songs recreate the world of Watteau. Mr. Reames' performance allowed him to personalize the characters of the commedia dell'arte --Scaramouche and Pulcinella--in a most charming fashion.

We were also delighted by his warm delivery of "Im wunderschönen Monat Mai", one of our favorite Robert Schumann songs. The weather last night was so warm for October that the song seemed more seasonal than one might have expected.

Gabriel Faure's "Après un rêve" was another hit.  There were also songs in English by Dominick Argento, Sven Lekberg, Samuel Barber, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Benjamin Britten. So many different styles were touched upon within a short hour!

Collaborative pianist Jestin Pieper also had the opportunity to show off his skills as a soloist with two brief Preludes by Alexander Scriabin which looked into the future while keeping the best of Late Romanticism. His pianistic skills added so much to the evening! In Franz Liszt' "Ihr Glocken van Marling" his piano reproduced the sound of churchbells.

It was a most rewarding evening and we can scarcely wait for the Joy in Singing recital at Merkin Hall on November 28th. This should be a memorable event and we urge you to get your tickets early. We attend every year and always find it thrilling!

(c) meche kroop

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