|Chris Reynolds and Samantha Hankey|
Half a recital is better than none at all. It was "nip and tuck" whether we could squeeze in part of Samantha Hankey's Master of Music recital at Juilliard before getting to Carnegie Hall for a 7:00 event. That 40 mins. turned out to be a major highlight of our musical week and we wouldn't have missed it for the world. We had just seen Ms. Hankey perform the role of Varvara in Janacek's Katya Kabanova, creating a delightful character. Previously we heard her as the scheming Agrippina in the Handel Opera, in which she created a not-so-delightful character.
The only piece on last night's program that was new to us was the Habanera from Bizet's Carmen with which she opened the program. She alternated seductiveness and menace to create a character one needed to watch out for. There are not many mezzo-sopranos that young who are in such full control of their instrument and their technique that they can focus on characterization. Ms. Hankey's vocal equipment is prodigious with gorgeous overtones that never desert her; the voice is centered throughout the register and achieves a special glory at the top. Language skills and phrasing are just about perfect.
The remainder of the program comprised repeats from our frequent hearings of her other recitals, one of which was a Vocal Arts Honors Recital last month. Revisiting songs we love is always a treat! With collaborative pianist Chris Reynolds, Ms. Hankey has forged a perfect partnership; he is one of the least self-serving accompanists we have heard and is marvelously supportive of the vocal line. He shone in two selections by Franz Liszt, playing delicately in "Freudvoll und leidvoll" but sharing Ms. Hankey's passion in "Der du von dem Himmel bist".
We also got a second hearing of some Schumann songs, settings of texts by Ruckert, a poet whose rhythms were so effectively matched by Schumann's writing for the piano, and whose meaning was so aptly conveyed by both singer and pianist. Ms. Hankey offered some interesting information before singing the set; Clara and Robert composed songs together in the romantic first year of their marriage. The ones Ms. Hankey chose for her recital happened to have been written for the tenor fach but that didn't make any difference in our appreciation.
Mr. Reynolds had some gorgeous arpeggios in "Aus den ostlichen Rosen". "Flugel! Flugel!" had incredible variety of coloration contributing to the abundant imagery. The two artists brought the lied to a magnificent climax. But our favorite, as always, was "Widmung". What could be more romantic than that!
We were thrilled to have a re-hearing of Agrippina's anguished aria--"Pensieri, voi mi tormentate!" from Handel's opera of the same name. Just hearing it brought the entire splendid performance to mind.
What a pity to have to leave before the set of Strauss songs. We are sure they were as fine as our prior hearing but if any reader was in the audience and cares to leave a comment below to "finish off" our review, we would be grateful.
We are thinking back over the many many times we have reviewed Ms. Hankey since her undergraduate days--all the honors she received, all the awards she won, all the recitals in which she engaged us. We'd like to thank her for all that wonderful music and wish her well in future endeavors. We see major stardom in her future.
(c) meche kroop