|Martin Neron, Sonya Headlam, Sahoko Sato Timpone, Christopher Sierra, and Sean McCarther|
The Vocalis Consort is new to us but the pianist is not. We have heard him before at Opera America and the prospect of hearing him perform Spanish (and Spanish influenced) music was a tempting one. We wished that the concert might have been better attended since the offerings were most fulfilling.
The first half of the program comprised music by Spanish composers. Tenor Cristopher Sierra has a nice unforced sound and sings with sazon. We enjoyed a pair of songs by Fernando Obradors, a self taught Catalan composer who arranged his country's folk songs. Folk songs are always appealing due to their memorable melodies; his are no exception. We have always loved the beautiful sentiment of "Del cabello mas sutil" and Mr. Sierra sang it as beautifully as it was written, with both passion and tenderness in equal measure. Mr. Neron's rippling piano accompaniment was lovely.
Soprano Sonya Headlam has a lovely voice but was unfortunately "on the book" for her selections from Joaquin Nin-Culmell's Sephardic songs. There was no audience contact and we felt shut out. But we did enjoy the piano accompaniment in "La rosa enflorece".
Argentinian composer Carlos Guastavino is a favorite of ours and baritone Sean McCarther sang the violent "Milonga de Dos Hermanos" with pleasing tone but a deficiency of passion.
Guastavino's melancholy "La rosa y el sauce" was given a nice interpretation by mezzo-soprano Sahoko Sato Timpone. The brightness of her tone brought "Jota" to life--one of a pair of songs from Manuel de Falla's Siete canciones populares espanolas. Mr. Neron's piano provided the rhythmic thrust. The gentle lullaby "Nana" was lovely.
Ms. Sato Timpone surely captured the humor of Obradors' "El Vito".
The second half of the program comprised Robert Schumann's Spanisches Liederspiel op 74. Schumann was not the only composer to set German translations of Spanish folksongs. We have often heard Hugo Wolf's "Spanisches Liederbuch" but this was our first hearing of the Schumann. All four singers took the stage and joined forces in various combinations and with gorgeous harmonies. We were reminded of Brahms' Liebeslieder Walzer, and that's a good thing!
The actor Igor Correa was on hand to weave the songs into a story. Perhaps Schumann's Dichterliebe can have a story imposed upon it but it was a mighty stretch to form a story out of his Spanisches Liederspiel. Nonetheless, Mr. Correa narrated it well.
Ms. Headlam and Ms. Sato Timpone harmonized beautifully in the charming "Erste Begegnung". The men took over with equivalent success for "Intermezzo". Come to think of it, however one paired the voices, they sounded swell together. We particularly enjoyed the two numbers in which all four members of the ensemble sang together--"Es ist verrathen" and "Ich bin geliebt".
In a work of this sort, being "on the book" makes sense and would seem necessary. We do have one suggestion however. We would have liked the texts in the original language, as well as the English translations.
We were delighted to be introduced to such a superb song cycle and equally delighted to see a new group on the music scene of New York City. We look forward to future performances and to Vocalis Consort reaching a wider audience.
(c) meche kroop