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.

Thursday, November 30, 2017


Äneas Humm and Tomomi Sato

A liederabend at Juilliard is such a consistently fine experience that one is at risk for taking them for granted. Since we have been reviewing them, we have watched the audience grow as fast as asparagus; one can barely secure a seat these days. That is understandable because New Yorkers can listen to the stars of tomorrow without cost. Many of them have performed already around the world and are at Juilliard to acquire a final polish.

Take Swiss baritone Äneas Humm for example. We first heard Mr. Humm through The German Forum a few years ago whilst he was still an undergraduate  and immediately recognized his artistry. He has had quite a career in Europe and  recently recorded an excellent CD. He is now under the tutelage of Edith Wiens, as were so many of the excellent singers heard last night. We reviewed a recital of her students last week.

Last night, accompanied by the lovely collaborative pianist Tomomi Sato, he treated us to a set of lieder which took on new luster when sung by a native German speaker. Two lieder by Hugo Wolf  ("Verschwiegene Liebe" and "Und willst du deinen Liebsten sterben sehen") stretched his instrument to the lowest part of the register. We preferred "Nimmersatte Liebe" which allowed Mr. Humm to express his lively personality.

Following were a pair of lieder by Viktor Ullmann whose early 20th c. works merit a wider hearing. "Vorausbestimmung" and "Betrunken" are colorful songs about intoxication and we are reminded how much singers enjoy songs about inebriation.  As do audience members! Mr. Humm had a swell time with these colorful songs and so did we. Ms. Sato was particularly fine in the last one, attacking the wild accompaniment with gusto.

We have been particularly aware of the artistry of soprano Felicia Moore who impresses us more and more each time we hear her. She absolutely commands the stage with a secure and welcoming stage presence, drawing us in with her magnificent instrument and connection with the material. She seemed to know exactly what she was singing about and when we returned home and looked at the translations we noticed that she had translated the songs herself. We wish all singers did so!

In "L'invitation au voyage" we enjoyed the expansive soaring top of her voice and the artistry with which she employed vocal coloration. The word "volupté " gave us goose bumps. In "La vie antérieure" she captured all the elusive nostalgia of the Baudelaire text which was matched by the passionate pianism of the always excellent Adam Rothenberg.  "Phidylé" moved from languid affection to passion.  In the entire set, the French was beyond reproach.

Georgian Mezzo-soprano Natalia Kutateladze performed that glorious Spanish cycle by Manuel de Falla--Siete Canciones Populares Españolas--a cycle of which we never tire. Ms. Kutateladze imbued the songs with her own intense personality which amplified the intensity of the songs. After the ironic cautionary tales "El paño moruno" and "Seguidilla murciana" came our very favorite--"Asturianas" which she colored with appropriately deep sorrow.  The combination of the text, the music, and her interpretation had a profound emotional effect.

Happily the charm of "Jota" cheered us up. We couldn't figure out why the lullaby "Nana" seemed so sad but mining works for their subtext keeps a work interesting and we were captivated. "Canción" was so filled with pain, as was "Polo" that we had to sit still for a while to collect ourself. This is artistry at work. It is a compliment to collaborative pianist Cameron Richardson-Eames to say that he kept up with her.

Some of our favorite Strauss songs were offered by soprano Rebecca Pedersen and pianist Candace Chien. Ms. Pedersen warmed up with "Allerseelen" and reached more of her potential with "Cäcilie" which she had fortunately translated herself. We are quite sure that was responsible for an increased sense of involvement. We liked the way she brought out the climactic moments and we related to the heartfelt nature of "Befreit". Her German was a bit four square and will benefit from more work on phrasing.

Mezzo-soprano Khady Gueye was accompanied by Rosa Li on the piano and, just from the point of view of our very own idiosyncratic taste, we hope to hear her sing something we like in the future. We have never warmed to the songs of Charles Ives and find the vocal lines uninteresting, causing our attention to rest on the accompaniment. Ms. Li has lovely soft hands and we enjoyed listening, especially in "Tom Sails Away" in which she evoked the mysterious nature of memory.

In "Feldeinsamkeit", we wanted crisper enunciation of the German consonants, as we did in the two Schönberg songs which followed--"Erwartung" and "Erhebung". These songs are not our favorites either but they did serve to bring out the texture of Ms. Gueye's instrument.

We can scarcely wait for the next liederabend.  No taking things for granted at this end!

(c) meche kroop

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