|Brianna Han and Ganson Salmon|
Getting a Masters in Music degree from The New School Mannes is a big deal, big enough to draw a highly enthusiastic crowd of fellow students and big enough to bring to New York Mr. Salmon's beautiful Nana--all the way from Indiana! Of course, master teacher Arthur Levy was also in attendance, with everyone bursting with pride. We personally take great pleasure in witnessing the culmination of years of vocal study and the threshold of a professional career.
Mr. Salmon chose an ambitious program, one that showed off his storytelling skills. We long ago lost track of the number of times we have heard Robert Schumann's intense song cycle Dichterliebe, but we always hope to find something new in the songs, rich as they are.
The cycle traces the arc of a love affair gone sour and requires the singer to evoke a wide spectrum of moods and emotions. It is such a general human phenomenon that it is easy to relate to, given a singer who is not afraid of his emotions. Just such a singer is Mr. Salmon. Accompanied by the superb collaborative pianist Brianna Han, every emotion was explored. Mr. Salmon did not appear to be acting but rather seemed to inhabit the songs from within.
The opening lied "Im wunderschönen Monat Mai" was sung with tender expressivity, achieved by dynamic variety. In "Aus meinen Tränen spriessen" Mr. Salmon appeared to enjoy the taste of the text, poetry by Heinrich Heine. We loved the coloration on the word "nachtigall". The enthusiastic "Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne" was filled with energy and excitement, and the singer seemed particularly involved in "Wenn ich in deine Augen seh".
Ms. Han had her chance to shine in the rippling accompaniment Schumann wrote for "Ich will meine Seele tauchen" and the ponderous chords of "Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome". We always love "Ich grolle nicht" for its bitter irony, well captured by the two artists, the mood recaptured in "Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen" with it's energetic hurdy-gurdy music in the piano.
"Allnächtlich im Traume" was sung with astute recreation of the wonderment of the dream state in which the dreamer fulfills his wishes. In the end he wants to bury his sorrow and his lost love in a coffin and give them a burial at sea. What a heartbreaker!
The second most impressive part of the recital was the final entry in which Mr. Salmon performed "The Stage", a poem he wrote in college about the particular thrills and chills of expression on the stage, set to music by his lady love Tatev Yeghiazaryan who commanded the piano. We do not know if this was a premiere of the work but we were touched by the sincerity.
According to the composer, she was inspired by Mr. Salmon's words to create a melody and then the harmonies. To our ears, the melodies evoked Armenian folk music in their flexible alternation of modes; the harmonies were original and quite lovely.
Also on the program was the cycle Tre Sonnetti di Petrarca performed with Ms. Han at the piano. She has very soft hands and produced some gorgeous arpeggi in "Pace non trovo" and a marvelous piano interlude in "I vidi in terra". Mr. Salmon's voice has the loveliest overtones in the middle of the register.
We haven't much to say about Samuel Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915, except that 19th c. Germany and Italy felt much more relevant than James Agee's text about 20th c. Kentucky! The text is descriptive and seemed not to inspire a very interesting vocal line. Mr. Salmon brought out the loathed music stand which he seemed not to need!
There are some interesting operatic roles in Mr. Salmon's future and one just passed that we hated to miss--The Fall of the House of Usher. We are sure there will be much to look forward to from this fine young artist.
(c) meche kroop