|Melody Fader and Richard Cox|
Melody Fader's parents made the perfect choice when they named their daughter. Not only is she a superb musician but she leans toward composers who love melody. This is an artist after our own heart.
Every time we attend a liederabend at Juilliard and witness a singer and collaborative pianist who work very well together, we wonder whether they will stay together as a performing unit. Yesterday's concert of Melody and Company Chamber Series at West End Collegiate Church gave us an answer to that question.
Ms. Fader and tenor Richard Cox attended Juilliard at the same time--he in the Vocal Arts Department and she in the Collaborative Piano Department. They did indeed perform together and had discussed performing Robert Schumann's Dichterliebe together some day. Well, yesterday was that day! And we were delighted to have been included as a member of the audience.
Ms. Fader's audience has been growing exponentially as word gets around of her excellent recitals around the New York area and abroad. She is renowned as a soloist, collaborative pianist, chamber musician, and recording artist. She also plays for a number of ballet companies. The size of the crowd greatly exceeded the number of programs printed but Mr. Cox's German diction was so crisp that we missed not a single word.
Mr. Cox has been the recipient of awards from many of our favorite foundations, including Opera Index, The George London Foundation, the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, and others.
Dichterliebe is a cycle of songs that plumbs the depths and heights of romantic love. Schumann selected 16 from Heinrich Heine's group of 65 poems. The initial ones express hope and anticipation of fulfillment but as the cycle continues, bitter disappointment emerges until the poet requires an enormous casket in which to bury the songs and his sorrow.
Ms. Fader was the perfect partner for Mr. Cox's plangent instrument. They used a variety of color and a sympathy of phrasing to elicit an entire spectrum of emotions from tenderness to grief to bitterness, irony and despair. We particularly enjoyed the "hurdy-gurdy" feeling of "Das ist ein Floten und Geigen" and the irony of "Ein Jungling liebt ein Madchen".
Our only quibble concerns the use of the detested (by us) music stand. Yes, we do realize that singers may be preparing more than one concert or role at the same time but we still find it a disruption in the artist-audience connection.
The other half of the program was Schumann's Piano Quintet in E-flat Major performed by Ms. Fader and the Momenta Quartet which comprises violinists Emilie-Anne Gendron and Alex Shiozaki, violist Stephanie Griffin and cellist Michael Haas. They have a lovely warm sound perfectly suited to Schumann.
The allegro movement began with a brief introduction and moved into a glorious opening theme in the piano, quickly picked up by the violins and then the cello. There were moments when Ms. Fader's piano produced a volley of rushing notes, generating quite a bit of excitement. The development section was inexhaustible in its invention. There seemed to be a brief and forceful motif occurring between themes. There was a wonderful sense of completion when the opening themes were recapitulated.
The leisurely march which followed reminded us of a funeral march. The key was minor, the melody plaintive and haunting, and the occasional dissonance arresting. There was a sweet central section before the first theme returned with passion and an angry outpouring from the viola.
The scherzo was one of perpetual motion with ascending and descending scales as Ms. Fader's fingers literally flew up and down the keys. The final movement kept up the pace until the very end with spirited forward motion and some interesting piano work at the lower end of the keyboard.
The work is one of our three favorite piano quintets, the others belonging to Brahms and Dvorak. We were delighted to hear it up close and personal with such a fine group of musicians.