One expects excellence from The Juilliard School but we are never surprised when an event exceeds our high expectations. Such was the case last night at the Vocal Arts Honors Recital in which two supremely talented sopranos, chosen by competitive audition, presented programs selected by themselves and their collaborative pianists. Let's take a look at what they chose.
The glamorous Hungarian-American Lilla Heinrich-Szasz, partnered by the competition-winning pianist Lachlan Glen (well known by Voce di Meche readers as the founder and co-artistic director of Schubert & Co.) began their half of the program with four of our favorite Grieg songs. The performance highlighted the gentle sincerity and delicacy of these gems. Ms. Heinrich-Szasz delighted the audience with her unfussy and winning delivery; her connection with the material and with the audience was remarkable, especially in the humorous "Lauf der Welt".
Four songs by Debussy revealed the fine vibrato of her upper register; our ears thrilled to the pingy resonance. Still, our heart was taken most by the Spanish songs of her final set. We had never before heard José Serrano's "Marinela" from La Canción del Olvido but we hope to hear it many more times in the future. On the other hand we have heard Fernando Obradors "Del cabello más sutil" more times than we can recall but never with a more haunting feeling of yearning.
Mr. Glen's piano was totally supportive of the delicacy of the songs. One had a sense of filigree that tickled the ear. Ms. Heinrich-Szasz performed an encore in Hungarian which was everything an encore should be, showing her skill with yet a fourth language and her willingness to let her hair down and dance; the delighted audience joined her in rhythmic clapping to the spirited "Heia in dem bergen" from Die Csárdásfürstin.
The second half of the program starred the equally glamorous award-winning Julia Bullock and her superb piano partner Daniel Fung. When we saw the program, we were skeptical about the Messiaen songs from Chants de terre et de ciel but need not have been concerned. Ms. Bullock and Mr. Fung made music together in spite of the inaccessibility of the music and poetry.
Much more to our taste were Mussorgsky's songs from The Nursery in which Ms. Bullock gave free rein to her considerable dramatic skills; our personal favorite was "With Nanny", heard many times before but never with such charm. Richard Strauss' Drei Ophelia Lieder followed, songs which sound very different from Strauss' other songs. It is so interesting that English had been translated into German and the German translated back into English by Ms. Bullock herself for the program. Indeed, Ms. Bullock also translated the French and the Russian songs! Without a break, Ms. Bullock seguéd right into Harry T. Burleigh's "Deep River", driving the audience into a frenzy of adulation with her gorgeous lustrous voice and compelling stage presence. Mr. Fung was with her every step of the way. These are four compelling artists to watch!
(c) meche kroop