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, January 18, 2017


Warren Jones, Beste Kalender, and Benjamin Dickerson

Warren Jones has unsurpassed eloquence at the keyboard, and last night at Carnegie Weill Recital Hall, he waxed eloquent in speech as well, when he paid well-deserved tribute to mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne. This very week we are celebrating her 23rd annual glorification of the song recital in The Song Continues 2017.  As usual, there will be a recital, master classes, and a Saturday night all-out celebration in Zankel Hall. No one has done as much as our beloved Ms. Horne to ensure the survival of the art of the song.

Last night's Spotlight Recital shone the spotlight on two young artists whose participation in Stephanie Blythe's Master Class exactly one year ago is well remembered. Mezzo-soprano Beste Kalender continued to impress us with the same dedication to the text that she evinced last year, combined with the awareness of eroticism stressed by Ms. Blythe.

Baritone Benjamin Dickerson is also recalled for his fine performance in Das Land des Lachelns which we so enjoyed at the Manhattan School of Music when he was an undergraduate.  The review has been archived and is searchable.

The music on the program all came from the last half of the 19th c. and the early part of the 20th. It was an entirely satisfying choice of material that held our attention from beginning to end. Ms. Kalender opened the program with a quartet of songs by Francesco Santoliquido, a Neapolitan composer who wrote his own texts.  As an Italian, his focus on love is understandable!  The songs matched the romanticism of his text with a gorgeously melodic vocal line, a boon to the singer indeed.

The four songs composing I canti della sera were all about love and nature and Ms. Kalender impressed with her superb control of dynamics and her total immersion in the text. We were thrilled to be exposed to the work of a composer famous in his own country but heretofore unknown to us. We are looking forward to hearing more of his compositions.

Sieben fruhe Lieder by Alban Berg have been problematic for us in their compositional modernity. We have heard them performed at least a dozen times and always hope they will capture our ears. Actually, it is only "Die Nachtigall" that resonates with us and remains in our mind's ear. We did like the brief and heimlich "Im Zimmer" but it was over before we could sink into it. Mr. Dickerson sang them well in good clean German and appeared to know what he was singing about. But our attention was more taken with Mr. Jones'  ravishing playing of the evocative piano part which, in true modern fashion, was more interesting than the vocal line.

Brahms, on the other hand, made sure that the folk melodies of his vocal line would be circling the brain and providing continual delights. Readers may recall how fond we are of duets and we reveled in the glorious harmonies created by our two young artists. We loved the lively "Weg der Liebe" but we adored the barcarolle "Die Meere". How well balanced the two voices were!

The second half of the recital included a half dozen of Hugo Wolf's songs--Alte Weisen-- sung with great insight by Ms. Kalender. We were less familiar with some of these offerings than the Wolf songs that appear regularly on recital programs but Wolf's style is unmistakeable. And Ms. Kalender's style is one of generous dramatic interpretation. She portrayed six female characters-each one differently colored. We enjoyed the emasculating woman of "Tretet ein, hoher Krieger", and the teasing woman of "Du milchjunger Knabe". The singer was not afraid to make an ugly sound for the drunken "heroine" of "Das Kohlerweib ist trunken" and she allowed the old woman of "Wie glanzt der helle Mond" her dreams of paradise.

Mr. Dickerson gave us a highly rhythmic "Ouvre ton coeur" by Georges Bizet, evoking the Spain of one's fantasies. The legato lyricism of "Chanson d'avril" made a fine contrast. Reynaldo Hahn's "A Chloris" had some beautiful pianissimo moments, while Franz Liszt's "Oh! Quand je dors" seemed to include so many of the finer points that we have picked up from multiple master classes. His French was gorgeously Gallic throughout.

Closing the program were two duets (YES!) by Gabriel Faure.  The two artists took turns with lines from "Puisqu'ici-bas toute ame and then harmonized with passionate sentiment. The second duet was the frisky "Tarentelle" which brought us full circle back to Naples!

As encore, the pair gave us "Guten abend, gute nacht", Brahm's famous lullabye. We suspect the grateful audience might have demanded more but there is something so final about that song.

(c) meche kroop

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