It is the time of year when students at Juilliard are fulfilling the requirements for their degrees and collaborative pianist Nathaniel LaNasa surely deserves the Graduate Diploma Degree for which he has evidently worked so hard. So how did he make it look so easy???? That's artistry!
Mr. LaNasa graciously thanked all the faculty who had contributed to the various facets of his education and explained to the audience what a collaborative pianist is and does, which is a great deal more than just accompanying. One could observe the truth of this by watching and listening. Mr. LaNasa chose his partners carefully--four singers and a violinist. The material was also varied, some to our taste and some, not so much.
The part of the program we enjoyed the most was his partnership with soprano Kathryn Henry, on the basis of their performance of five selections from Richard Strauss' Op.10--his first published songs, filled with youthful enthusiasm and compositional promise, much like the artists!
Ms. Henry offers a generous sound, a pleasing vibrato, and clear German. More importantly, she colored each song differently, giving "Zueignung" a full measure of passion, matched by Mr. LaNasa's piano. "Nichts" was given a lot of personality and a touch of humor, while the gorgeous "Die Nacht" established a mood of vague anxiety and just the right emphasis on the shift to the minor key. "Allerseelen" was filled with painful longing, achieving some peaceful resolution with the piano postlude.
Baritone Gregory Feldmann was given similar support by Mr. LaNasa in three songs by Gabriel Fauré. His fine round tone was well matched by arpeggi in the piano in "Dans le forêt de Septembre". The ripples in the piano matched the vocal color of "La fleur qui va sur l'eau".
We have never enjoyed Olivier Messiaen's music but the bitter pill went down easily with the lovely soprano Nicolette Mavroleon tackling the nonsense syllables. We could only make out a few words like "green dove", "love", "water", "sky", and "time". We preferred "L'amour de Piroutcha" which had a lyrical line and a gentle piano part.
Messiaen often kept Mr. LaNasa's hands at the farthest reaches of the keyboard and he really got a workout. He explained that we were hearing extracts from a doomed love story based on a Peruvian legend. Well, there's that. In any case, Ms. Mavroleon seemed very involved in the work and can be forgiven for being "on the book" in the case of such a bizarre vocal line and text.
Even more bizarre was a contemporary piece by Tonia Ko called "Smoke and Distance". This short piece did not appeal on an emotional level and seemed to us to be written from an intellectual perspective. The singer, Lucy Dhegrae, merits major props for memorizing the vocal part, which involved strange sounds and humming.
It was the piano part that amazed us. Mr. LaNasa was called upon to pluck and strum the strings of the piano. We know this is not the first time a composer has called upon a performer to attack the piano in such a fashion but we prefer our piano played in the customary fashion!
We were back on more familiar territory when Mr. LaNasa was joined by Hahnsol Kim for Beethoven's Violin Sonata No. 3 in E-flat, Op.12 No. 3, an early work very rooted in the classical style. We heard a traditional Allegro, an expressive Adagio, and a lively Rondo with an appealing theme.
We were impressed by how the two artists related to one another, with the piano picking up and reflecting on the violin. Good job Nathaniel!
(c) meche kroop