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 11, 2017


Scott Rednour and Xiaoming Tian at Elabash Recital Hall

It's been over two years since we reviewed Xiaoming Tian's Masters Degree Recital at Manhattan School of Music when we made some puns about the English meaning of his name.  We wound up inventing our own name for him...Triply Talented Tian. The reason was that he ended the recital singing a highly heartfelt song whilst accompanying himself on the piano. It was a colleague of his who told us that Mr. Tian composed the song himself!

Now that Mr. Tian is enrolled in the Ph.D./D.M.A. Program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, perhaps he is no longer so gripped with modesty because he announced himself as the composer when he performed the same incredible feat last night as an encore to his excellent recital. Although the words were not printed in the program,  the artist supplied us with the text, 

It is a lovely text, filled with nostalgia and references to elements of nature. The sounds of sung Mandarin rose and fell with the music in perfect partnership and delighted the ear. Mandarin is a musical language to start with and lovely to listen to.The song "Don't Cast Away" began with delicacy but became vigorous at the climax. His piano writing is melodic and included some wonderful arpeggi.

One of the things we most admire about Mr. Tian (aside from his compositional and pianistic skills) is his musicality. The phrasing is always apt and his control of dynamics excellent. Added to this is a facility with languages.

It seems as if singers, for whom English is a second language, have better English diction than native English speakers. Since the Masters recital, Mr. Tian's English diction has improved to the point that every word of the Barber songs was clearly enunciated. English will never be our favorite language for singing but it was a pleasure to hear it so well sung.

His French is also excellent and we were very glad to hear his Ravel once more. We just wrote about Don Quichotte a Dulcinee a few days ago but last night's performance took us back to the earlier graduation recital and gave us an opportunity to measure his artistic growth. We would call this cycle his "signature".

He invested "Chanson romanesque" with sweetness, "Chanson epique" with devotional piety, and "Chanson a boire" (our favorite) with flights of extravagant melismatic singing.

He has equal skills with German, evincing a fine vibrato in the vowels with no cheating of the consonants. We were happy to hear our favorites--"Die Nacht", "Allerseelen", and "Zueignung" from Op. 10 of 1885 composed when Strauss was only 20 years old! (What's YOUR 20-year-old doing with his time?) From the 1894 Op. 27 we enjoyed "Morgen!" with it's lovely piano interlude and "Heimliche Aufforderung". These are Strauss' most romantic and passionate songs, of which we never tire.

Fortunately, Mr. Tian chose some of Rachmaninov's best songs, of which we prefer "Do Not Sing To Me My Beauty" because of its melancholy text and haunting vocal line.  "In the Silence of the Secret Night" is another winner and "Christ is Risen" recalled the despairing condition of the world today. Mr. Tian has a flair for Russian, as we recall when we heard him sing Eugene Onegin,

Rounding out the program were two lovely songs in Mandarin by Qing Zhu about the Yangtze River, one a personal revelation of longing and the other about an historical event. We suspect that the extensive program notes were a product of Mr. Tian's scholarship.

Mr. Tian studies with Robert White who was in the audience and whose pleasure seemed on par with our own.  Accompanist for the recital was Scott Rednour.

(c) meche kroop

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