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, April 23, 2017


Marie Marquis, James Bassi, and John Kun Park

We all want the song recital to not just survive but to flourish. But this intimate art form can be less than thrilling when performed in a large hall with its consequent loss of intimacy.  In the 19th c. music lovers held salons in their homes with friends gathered around the piano sharing delights that cannot be taken for granted in the 21st c.

Never fear, lieder lovers!  Joy in Singing to the rescue! Under the guidance and with the dedicated labor necessary, Maria Fattore ensures that we get that intimate experience. A fine Sunday afternoon was spent in the private home of some generous music lovers who hosted a very fulfilling recital.

The program was all about Spring with carefully curated songs to invite us to celebrate a beautiful Sunday, fine for walking outdoors but even finer to come indoors and thrill to some gorgeous music.

This is the third time we have heard Marie Marquis sing and our opinion of her remains at a very high level. We saw her having a high time onstage last Halloween with Heartbeat Opera's Mozart in Space and shortly afterward we were in attendance at her recital as winner of the 2016 Joy in Singing award.

What we remember most was her engaging stage presence and sparkling soprano. This young woman can get inside a song and bring it into your heart. A superb singer can get away without these qualities on the opera stage, helped along by sets and costumes and story line. But conveying the emotional content of a lied, especially in an intimate environment, requires a special personality and Ms. Marquis has it all. After this recital we will think of her as The Songbird of Spring.

She alternated with tenor John Kun Park who also brought a special quality to his song delivery and sang without that tenorial pushing that we often disparage. Both artists introduced their songs and told enough about each so that those who did not understand the language could get the gist of things.

Ms. Marquis opened the program with Gabriel Faure's "L'hiver a cesse" effectively negotiating those treacherous upward skips.  Hugo Wolf's "Er ist's" is a joyful song and she communicated all the joy she felt. Argento's "Diaphenia" is more melodic than most 20th c. music and pleased our ears.

We especially loved Clara Schumann's "Das ist ein Tag, der klingen mag" which makes us wonder why more singers don't program this composer's lovely output more often.

That being said, Ms. Marquis seems just made for Strauss. Richard Strauss' "Das Rosenband" was notable for the brilliance of her upper register and gorgeous melismatic passages.

Of course Johann Strauss, Jr. was not related to Richard Strauss but we also loved Ms. Marquis performance of the lengthy and challenging 1882 "Fruhlingsstimmen", a waltz with lavish coloratura passages. For this complex and very wordy piece, Ms. Marquis was "on the book" but we didn't mind. She even did the last verse in English, although her German was just as fine as her French. The piano of accompanist James Bassi echoed her voice in a most enchanting fashion.

Mr. Park's selections included Wolf's "Fussreise" from his Morike lieder, and we enjoyed this jaunty paean to la belle nature. Henri Duparc's Phydile was given a romantic coloration and plenty of dynamic variety.

We loved the expansiveness of Franz Lehar's "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" from Das Land des Lachelns.  It was sung ardently but well modulated.

Gerald Finzi's "It was a lover and his Lass" (text from Shakespeare's As You Like It) was such fun with its "Hey nonny no" and this just goes to prove that good poetry inspires good music. Mr. Park enjoyed singing it as much as we enjoyed hearing it!  The mood was a little quieter for Wolf's "Im Fruhling" in which Morike's text takes a contemplative turn as he reflects on the indefinable sehnsucht that Spring can arouse in us.

Richard Strauss' Allerseelen is not, strictly speaking, a Springtime song. It refers to the Day of the Dead on November 1st. But the text refers to a beautiful memory from May, so we'll take it, especially since it was so passionately sung by Mr. Park.

We also heard a delightful piano solo from Mr. Bassi--a mashup of Schumann and Hammerstein!

If there is Joy in Singing, there is also the counterpart--Joy in Listening. There was plenty of joy to go around and we are eagerly awaiting news of interesting developments in the works for this esteemed organization.  In the meanwhile, if you have a tax refund looking for a home, consider a tax-deductible donation...www.songsalon.com.

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