Dear Reader, if you haven't yet heard about the free vocal concerts offered by Carnegie Hall, let me tell you about them now. Yesterday, in collaboration with St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist Church, we had the opportunity to catch up on a singer we have been following for the past five years since her undergraduate days at Manhattan School of Music. Nothing gives us greater pleasure than watching a young singer go from "promising" to "rising star".
We have enjoyed Yvette Keong , a lovely Chinese-Australian soprano, in a number of roles, in a masterclass, as a Gerda Lissner award winner, and outdoors in Washington Square Park a few summers ago. These memories came flooding back when Ms. Keong satisfied the audience with an encore--Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer" which we may consider her "calling card", sung as it was with perfect diction, gorgeous legato, and the tenderest of feeling.
The program was a challenging one, beginning with four songs by Arnold Schoenberg notable for their mysterious texts by Richard Dehmel and Johannes Schlaf. Two songs by the 20th c. composer Joseph Schwantner utilized texts that were translated from Spanish poetry of Agueda Pizarro that might better have been left in Spanish, which we find far more singable than English. There were some jagged vocal lines that were well handled by the singer but we enjoyed it more when she produced some gorgeous melismatic singing that reminded us of a vocalise. However, the piano writing was colorful and evocative--well performed by collaborative pianist Gracie Francis.
The lyrical "La maja y el ruiseñor" by Enrique Granados was far more to our liking. Ms. Keong's voice represented the girl of the title and Ms. Francis' piano played the part of the nightingale. Ms. Keong's eyes followed the bird in much the same fashion as Nedda's followed the birds in I Pagliacci. So we not only heard the nightingale but we saw it through the eyes of the girl. How completely compelling!
Six songs by Rachmaninoff covered a great deal of emotional territory from the sorrowful imagery of "In my garden at night" to the frisky "The rat-catcher" to the passion of "The Quest"--all sung in impeccable Russian and with flowing vocal line.
The final five songs on the program were our favorites. There is something about Chinese poetry that stirs our soul; there is a timelessness that carries through from the 11th c. to the 20th that we can only begin to appreciate in the English translation but which inspires the most exquisite melodies in the 20th c. composers. The marriage of vocal sound and piano accompaniment left us feeling more than satisfied.
The next vocal recital in the series will be 4/13 when Jonathan Mc Cullough will perform. . Thanks Carnegie Hall!
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