|Takaoki Onishi and Dimitri Dover|
We have seen both artists perform before and are always impressed by their musicianship and total involvement. Last night seemed like a culmination although Mr. Onishi has been accepted in the Artists Diploma Program and we are glad of it since it will provide a further opportunity to hear this stunning young baritone. He has a large voice that sets the very molecules of air to vibrating but this generous sound is under complete control. His tone is consistent throughout the register. In spite of the fact that none of the languages are his first language, he makes absolute sense out of all the poetry.
He began the program with four songs by Respighi that we never before found very interesting since the poetry is rather spare. But Mr. Onishi's artistry brought out subtleties that we'd never before heard, such as the exquisite diminuendo in "Nebbie". Mr. Dover's artistry contributed a great deal as he elucidated the descending chords, emphasizing the sadness and loneliness. In "Pioggia" his pianism so realized the falling rain that we nearly reached for an umbrella.
Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen is a song cycle much beloved by us and what a treat it was to hear it sung with such depth of feeling. The abundant melodies are familiar from Mahler's symphonies. The composer himself wrote the poetry and it is heartbreaking. A young man's beloved has married another and he is filled with despair, then anger, then regret and resignation. Finally he finds peace under a linden tree. This gives the singer an opportunity and a challenge to convey all these mood swings with word coloring. Mr. Onishi rose to the challenge and left us stunned. His intense involvement with the work made us hope that he has not had such a heartbreak in his own life and that it was "only" artistry.
We also enjoyed the stylish way he performed Ravel's songs from Don Quichotte à Dulcinée. He sang "Chanson romanesque" with impressive nobility, "Chanson épique" with earnestness and "Chanson à boire" with a lively sense of fun.
He closed the program with three songs by Rachmaninoff. If we preferred "Vesennije vody" it was only because it was more familiar to our ear. Mr. Dover's piano conveyed the rushing of the water. How appropriate to end the recital with a reference to Spring!
But fortunately for the audience Mr. Onishi graciously provided two encores. Since most of the program was on the sad side, it made perfect sense for this fine artist to share his humorous side with Tartaglia's aria from Mascagni's "Le Maschere" in which the stuttering commedia del'arte player cannot quite sing out what he wants to say. The second aria was a lovely strophic Japanese folk song that made everyone feel relaxed after the high-wire breath holding of the rest of the evening.
(c) meche kroop