We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


HyoNa Kim (photo by Devon Cass) and Bretton Brown (photo by A. Moeller)
Our idea of a great recital isn't that different from our idea of a great meal.  Each "course" has different flavors, colors and textures; there are dishes one has never tasted before; one leaves feeling nourished and replete and yet...somehow wanting more.  Such was the case last night at the Joy in Singing presentation of their 2013 Award Winner mezzo-soprano Hyona Kim with her collaborative pianist Bretton Brown who was with her in total support every step of the way.  What a team!

Ms. Kim is so secure in her terrific technique and so poised onstage that she can afford to immerse herself in the texts and make each audience member feel as if she is singing just to them.  Indeed, she weaves a spell that draws people in.  We witnessed an amazing control of dynamics.  When she lets go the very molecules of air dance to her vibrato; when she spins a thread of soft sound, we lean in to meet her.  The colors in her voice are multiple and augmented by gesture and facial expression.  There are stories to be told and she tells them.

The program opened with Sieben Lieder von Elisabeth Kulmann by Robert Schumann who set the texts of this unfortunate poet who lived a sad life and died at 17.  She lives on in this gorgeous music brought to life by Ms. Kim in German so crisp that we never had to look at the translations.  We particularly enjoyed Mr. Brown's evocative pianism in "Die letzen Blumen starben".  The deeply sorrowful mood was lifted by the humor of Erik Satie's chansons which followed.  Ms. Kim is anything but pompous and had a great time illustrating the bronze statue of the frog who provides nighttime lodging for sleepy insects.  The program notes gave a fine explanation of the French wordplay in "Daphénéo" which we wished we had figured out on our own!  "Je te veux" was incredibly romantic.

Three lovely settings of texts by Pushkin followed and we were delighted to be hearing the seldom heard music of Nikolai Medtner which gave Mr. Brown the opportunity to indulge what must be a Russian soul.  Ms. Kim conveyed two different types of lost love--one that had passed by and one towards a lover that had passed away.  Our eyes were not the only ones that filled with tears at this passionate music.

In this carefully wrought recital, nothing was commonplace.  After the intermission we heard a set of light-hearted songs by a multiplicity of composers dealing with animals--as in Noah's ark.  Ned Rorem composed two songs about the same animal--"Snake" and "Serpent".  We preferred the latter for its clever rhymes.  ("All this is futile, I do not like to bang or tootle").  We do enjoy English most when there are clever rhymes!  David Sisco's "Judged by the Company One Keeps" had the audience chortling with glee.

The final set of the evening comprised songs about biblical King David and his prayers.  We love our Dvořák and his setting of "Sing to the lord a new song" was music to our ears as well.  Ravel's "Kaddish" was movingly sung in Hebrew.  As encore Ms. Kim and Mr. Brown performed a setting of "The Lord's Prayer" by UnYoung La, sung in Korean.  That makes six languages heard in one recital, all beautifully handled--an international meal for the musical epicure.

ⓒ meche kroop

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