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.

Sunday, March 13, 2016


Lachlan Glen and Ben Bliss

It would take a far better writer than we are to fully convey the impact of yesterday's lieder recital. The word that comes to mind is gifting. Carnegie Hall's program of Neighborhood Recitals is a gift to the community and Mr. Bliss and Mr. Glen gifted the audience. Both gifts were majorly appreciated.

We could walk through the Metropolitan Museum of Art, filled with valuable paintings and stop, arrested, in front of one that captivates us completely.  Is it the subject matter?  The colors? The way one's eye is pulled across the canvas? The technique of the application of paint? Inexplicably the eyes mist over. They are not tears of sorrow and not quite tears of joy.  Perhaps they are tears of awe and appreciation for beauty and all that went on in the heart and soul of the artist who produced it.

That is how we felt at Carnegie Hall's Neighborhood Recital at St. Michael's Church, produced as part of the Marilyn Horne Legacy. We were "stirred and shaken", in awe of such talent belonging to two exemplary artists in the early stages of major careers. 

Mr. Bliss' incredible artistry has already been recognized by The Metropolitan Opera (Belmonte in Die Entf├╝hrung aus dem Serail) and the LA Opera (Tamino in Die Zauberfl├Âte). His gentle tenor caresses the ear; his impeccable phrasing makes emotional sense out of whatever he sings; his diction ensures that titles are superfluous.

Mr. Glen has prodigious skills as a pianist with his fingers flying over the keys. On top of that his artistry as a collaborative pianist is legendary. He breathes along with the singer, always supporting and never stealing the show, although he easily could. He is already a successful recording artist.

Together, they were even greater than the sum of their parts and held us in their spell by means of their partnership. Whether the result was achieved by a great deal of practice or by instinctual connection we know not.  But we certainly felt it.

In everything they performed, we sensed a deeply felt connection with the material, which was effectively transmitted to the audience. The program opened with Ottorino Respighi's "Pioggia" in which Mr. Glen's piano produced the raindrops and Mr. Bliss' voice had us inhaling the scent of nature refreshed. Similarly, Respighi's "Nebbie" filled us with the coldness and loneliness of a barren landscape with Mr. Glen's decisive piano making significant contributions.

Three songs by Vincenzo Bellini delighted us: "Malinconia, ninfo gentile",  "Vanne, o rosa fortunata", and "Ma rendi pur contento". All were performed with full attention paid to Bellini's long melodic lines.

Of the four Benjamin Britten songs, we are happy to report that every word was understood, due to superlative English diction. We wish that were always the case but it is not to be taken for granted. We loved the charming "Sally in our Alley".

Two sonnets were performed: Britten's "Spirito ben nato" from Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo (noted for some lovely a capella phrases) and Franz Liszt's "Pace non trovo" from Tre sonetti di Petrarca. Having heard this a dozen times this year at various master classes, we thought we were tired of it.  But yesterday we seemed to be hearing it for the first time. The artists brought it to a thrilling dramatic climax.

Opera was not neglected. "Una furtiva lagrima" from Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore was absolutely stunning.  Never mind that we just heard it the night before! It was sung with depth and simplicity; the messa di voce at the end was exquisite.

A group of French songs by Henri Duparc and Ernest Chausson were beautifully performed with lovely long Gallic lines and not a whiff of effeteness.  Perhaps our favorite was Reynaldo Hahn's "L'heure exquise" with its delicate piano part and the vocal skips upward.

A prior reviewing commitment forced us to leave before the final set of songs. We hated missing any part of this recital. This is one recital that will remain in our memory.

(c) meche kroop

1 comment:

  1. This was one of the finest recitals I've ever heard, even more remarkable as it was presented as a free Carnegie Hall neighborhood concert. The audience was rapt - not a cough, candy wrapper or cellphone tone. I found myself wiping back tears during a number of the pieces. And you missed the crowd's tumultuous applause at the end. The artists were called back for two encores. They sheepishly admitted they had only prepared one, and performed "Una Furtiva Lagrima" a second time around, with even more feeling.