|Felicia Moore, Kady Evanyshyn, Ryan Hurley, and Äneas Humm|
We think of Juilliard students as precious gems, already possessing beautiful color, clarity, and fine cut. We think of the faculty as gemologists who refine and polish them. Last night we heard a memorable recital celebrating Johannes Brahms (who merits even more celebration than he gets), performed by a dozen outstanding students of Edith Wiens who is polishing these gems in what must be a very special class.
The excellent mountings for these gems were provided by pianists Michal Biel and Chris Reynolds, two collaborative pianists who always impress us with the degree to which they are tuned in to the singer and the song. The recital opened with a pair of Four-Hand Waltzes from Op. 39, No. 11 in B minor and No. 4 in E minor. Even in a minor key Brahms' music has an inner joy for life that both pianist elucidated.
Following this we heard ten singers in one song each and two in a duet (and oh how we love duets!) German baritone Äneas Humm opened the program with "Mein Mädel hat einen Rosenmund" a delightful volkslied in which the charming Mr. Humm extolled the virtues of a woman, punctuated by his eyebrows. It was a real audience pleaser and set a very high standard for German diction which was almost equalled by those who followed.
Soprano Meghan Kasandera sang "Meine Liebe ist grün" with a bright resonance that tickled the ear. The text was by Felix Schumann but to our ears it had the same quality as volklieder. We enjoyed this exuberant expression of young love.
Tenor Ryan Hurley employed his fine instrument with a sweetness that was just right for "Minnelied" (the one with text by Ludwig Hoity) which pays tribute to a woman.
Soprano Shereen Pimental captivated us with the captivating Ständchen (the one with text by Franz Kugler). Three students serenade a young woman and the warmth of Ms. Pimental's vibrato created a lovely atmosphere.
Mezzo-soprano Kady Evanyshyn has a richly textured instrument and a sincerity that was just right for "Kommt dir manchmal in den Sinn", yet another love song with text by Hugo Conrat.
Bass Alex Rosen has an expansive sound that suited the serious tone of the next lied, "O wüsst ich doch den Weg zurück", with text by Klaus Groth, expressing sehnsucht for a carefree childhood.
"Da unten im Tale" is another volkslied that we love and it was sung by mezzo-soprano Carlyle Cooney and bass Cameron Liflander. If we are not mistaken, it is in Bavarian dialect.
A deeply felt performance of "Unbewegte laue Luft" was given by mezzo-soprano Kelsey Lauritano. Georg Daumer's text paints a word picture of peaceful nature inhabited by a man of not so peaceful desires. Ms. Lauritano painted an aural picture, beginning in stillness and ending with passionate intensity.
Tenor James Ley sang another song with text by Daumer--"Wie bist du meine Königen", yet another paean to a woman. He sang it ardently and we loved the way he colored the word "wonnevoll".
Mezzo-soprano Natalia Kutateladze connected deeply with "Sapphische Ode" in which the poet Hans Schmidt draw an analogy between the dew on a plucked rose and the tears of a lover. The melody is both erotic and exotic and Ms. Kutateladze captured the mood beautifully with a graceful decrescendo at the end.
Soprano Felicia Moore impressed us with her performance of the dramatic lied "Von ewiger Liebe" in which a young man worries about damaging his sweetheart's reputation but she reassures him of the strength of their bond. Poet Hoffman von Fallersleben's text gives the singer an opportunity to distinguish between the voices of the narrator, the boy, and the girl. Ms. Moore's total involvement with the text ended the first half of the program on a very high note.
The second half of the program comprised all 18 songs of Liebesliederwalzer, Op. 52. The work is not performed as often as we would like and we were thrilled to hear it so well sung by varying combinations of the singers of Ms. Wien's class. We particularly enjoyed the frisky "Ein kleiner, hübscher Vogel" sung by Ms. Kasanders, Ms. Evanyshyun, Mr. Ley, and Mr. Humm.
We also singled out the ironic "Nein, es ist nicht" and "Schlösser auf" sung by Ms. Moore, Ms. Lauritano, Mr. Ley, and Mr. Rosen.
It was an evening filled with incomparable pleasure. Brahms' output of lieder is almost as vast as that of Schubert and, mixed in with our favorites were several new ones to be discovered. The singers sang in excellent German and with a great deal of spirit. That must be some class!
(c) meche kroop