|Ken Noda and Hyesang Park|
It was a cold and nasty late winter day outside, but inside the vast St. Michael's Church on the Upper West Side, Spring was in the air and in the ear. Ushering in the delights of the upcoming Spring was star soprano Hyesang Park with the incredibly sensitive accompaniment of Ken Noda. The occasion was a Neighborhood Concert produced by the Weill Music Institute of Carnegie Hall in partnership with St. Michael's church. The concert is part of the Marilyn Horne Legacy at Carnegie Hall, and the divine Ms. Horne was in the audience for this very special event.
We have reviewed Ms. Park over a half dozen times (all reviews archived) and fell all over ourselves the first time we heard her in 2013. But she just keeps getting better and better, even when there seems to be no room for improvement. Her instrument is bright but never shrill; her technique is flawless; but it is something else that draws the listener in, as if the fragrance of a rose slipped around your heart. To hear her is to love her. Her voice is like a bell that summons one away from whatever dark place you may have been stuck in.
Perhaps the rose analogy came out of the gorgeous rose-colored gown she wore but there is no denying that her inner beauty, revealed when she modestly addressed the audience, informs everything she sings. We don't know of another singer who can close her eyes in rapture without losing contact with the audience.
We have been most familiar with her bel canto roles and a Mozart concert aria. Yesterday's recital revealed a number of other aspects to her versatility. Our companion, fluent in both French and German, agreed with our high opinion of Ms. Park's linguistic skills. We can attest to her authenticity in Spanish.
The program opened with Joaquin Rodrigo's Cuatro madrigales amatorios, four memorably tuneful songs of widely divergent moods; the mournful "Con que la lavare" and the teasing "De donde venis, amore?" were our two personal favorites. These songs are heard frequently on recital programs but Ms. Park made them fresh and new.
Also in Spanish were three selections from Enrique Granados' Canciones amatorias, with which we were unfamiliar. In these, Mr. Noda's collaborative piano was outstanding. He always impresses us with his profound involvement with the singer and the two of them made marvelous music together.
Clara Schumann's songs deserve to be on more recital programs and we were happy to hear five of them, all sung with superlative German diction and a remarkable depth of feeling. Mrs. Schumann's song output was certainly overshadowed by her husband's but she was no minor talent! Just hear her setting of "Liebst du um Schonheit", the Ruckert text that was famously set by Gustav Mahler!
We have often heard the vocalise of Heitor Villa-Lobos' Bachianas brasileiras No. 5. When Ms. Park sang it, our thought was "Angels can speak without words". We cannot recall ever hearing the beautiful text about nightfall. Ms. Park handled the vocalise, the text, and the humming section with equal skill. We are not familiar with Portuguese but we shall assume that it was perfect.
Poulenc seemed to favor surrealistic texts to which we have trouble relating; however, Ms. Park's dramatic gifts allowed us the illusion that we understood! Now that is a strange phenomenon. She captured a sort of cabaret feeling to them without depriving them of their seriousness. We particularly enjoyed "Paganini" from Metamorphoses and the pictorial "C" from Deux poemes de Louis Aragon. The ironic "Fetes galantes" was performed at rapid-fire speed without missing a single syllable.
It is a courageous act for a Korean woman to sing Tosti songs, usually best sung by an Italian tenor breathing garlic into every phrase. We go on record here as saying that Ms. Park did them justice, even bringing something new to them. In "Aprile", she painted an aural picture of Spring along with Mr. Noda's lilting arpeggios. "L'ultima canzone" was so heartbreaking we could scarcely breathe. (We managed to make a one minute video which you can find on our Facebook page Voce di Meche.) The joyful "Marechiaro" was sung in accurate dialect. We loved every moment.
Ms. Park closed the program with a lovely setting of the 23rd Psalm by N. Unyoung. Although religious music is not our favorite, the words are in Korean and Ms Park sang from the depths of her soul. It is clear from what place she derives spiritual sustenance, the more power to her.
As encore, she offered "O, mio babbino caro" from Giacomo Puccini's Gianni Schicchi. As the true artist she is, Ms. Park made this oft-heard aria completely her own. She made the church her own. She made the audience her own. This beautiful young woman is destined for stardom on the world's stages; and she deserves it!
(c) meche kroop