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.

Saturday, March 17, 2018


Petr Nekoranec, Valeria Polunina, and Hyesang in Lindemann Recital

Let's face it.  The Lindemann Young Artist Development Program gives matchless recitals.  Since 1980 they have discovered and developed the cream of the crop of young opera singers and collaborative pianists. Those fortunate enough to be chosen receive a bounty of instruction, coaching, and performance opportunities. The stages of opera houses worldwide clamor for their talent.

Yesterday's recital at the Bruno Walter Auditorium exceeded greatness. It lasted but 75 minutes but the after effects are still with us. A recital like this can leave you totally satisfied, yet wishing it had gone on and on.  Like champagne, even when you've had enough, you still want more!

What impressed us most about these young artists was how distinctive their voices are.  So many tenors and sopranos of today sound alike; it's a special pleasure to hear voices that have unique qualities.

The appropriately named soprano Hyesang Park opened the program with a pair of songs by Purcell--"Music for a While" from Oedipus and "Sweeter than Roses" from Pausanias. This 17th c. British titan knew how to pair text and music; Ms. Park's bright tone produces a visceral effect; we could feel the bones of our middle ear vibrating and tingling.  What an incredible sensation! It is particularly pronounced in the penetrating upper register.

Her English is so perfect that we missed nary a word. Perhaps some credit must go to Patricia Brandt's coaching in English. Not only was the enunciation clear but the meaning behind the words was emphasized by astute vocal coloration. The word "cool" indeed had a chilly sound and "trembling" literally trembled. Ms. Park's expressive face matched her expressive voice such that we really understood the songs. 

Purcell wrote some gorgeous melismas that took on the character of vocalises. The vocal fireworks of the fast section were exciting as could be.  It was great to hear this artist go from legato lyricism to rapid-fire embellishments.

Five songs by Clara Schumann followed, which involved some warm colors of regret and nostalgia. Rückert's romantic text "Liebst du um Schönheit" was set by her long before Mahler set it. We have always loved Mahler's setting but there is no reason to overlook Clara Schumann's version. Clara's style is not so different from her husband's and we hear the same attention to a singable vocal line and wonderful piano writing.

Collaborative pianist Valeria Polunina created quite a storm in "Er ist gekommen" and some delightful echoing effects in "Das ist ein Tag".

The program also included a charming pair of songs by Reynaldo Hahn who managed to keep melody alive into the 20th c.! "A Chloris" and "L'Enamourée" are graceful songs and Ms. Park sang them simply, creating a dreamlike mood. The effect was that of letting the songs speak for themselves.

Tenor Petr Nekoranec has an equally distinctive sound; we don't know how to describe it except "texture". It sounds rich and multidimensional. The last time we heard Mr. Nekoranec we loved his voice but not the material. Yesterday we were over the moon about his choice of material. Antonín Dvorák wrote his Gypsy Songs in German and that is how we have always heard them.

However, the composer reset them in Czech and we were amazed at the beautiful sound of the language and how well it integrated with the text. Singing in his native tongue permitted Mr. Nekoranec to immerse himself totally in the many moods of Roma life from wild abandon to deep sorrow. The work fits him like a suit of bespoke clothing. His colorful personality emerged as he gave his all.

We also enjoyed Six Romances, Op. 38 by Rachmaninoff. The partnership between him and Ms. Polunina was particularly striking.  "The Daisies" gives the piano score some lacy filigree whereas "The Pied Piper" has a frisky quality that Mr. Nekoranec augmented with his lively personality. The haunting piano line of "A-u!" brought this superb recital to a memorable close.

We longed for an encore but there was none. We kept wondering what these two unique voices would sound like in a duet. Well, now we have something to anticipate for the future.

(c) meche kroop

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