|Richard Fu and Michelle Geffner|
We alway enjoy a liederabend at Juilliard because we get exposed to a variety of material sung by different students of the Juilliard Vocal Arts Department.
This was the first time we heard Mishael Eusebio who sang Beethoven with a lovely easy tonal quality, impressive for its tenderness. No pushing here! The vibrato varied from the enthusiastic "Adelaide" to the melancholy An die ferne Geliebte, showing sensitivity to the text and plenty of vocal and facial expressiveness that would benefit from some gestural expression..
An die ferne Geliebte amounts to a song cycle about longing, text by Alois Jeitteles. The sorrow comes not from rejection but from physical distance and this longing was beautifully expressed by Mr. Eusebio in excellent German, and by Richard Fu's collaborative piano. It was unutterably sad.
Joseph Marx composed songs in the early 20th c. and we are always happy to see them on a program. Like those of Hugo Wolf they require repetitive hearing; they are less accessible than the lieder of Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Beethoven.
Katerina Burton has an ample soprano that we think would be perfect for Strauss. She and piano partner Seoyon MacDonald performed five of Marx's lieder; our favorite was the sensual "Selige Nacht" (text by Otto Erich Hartleben), the sensuality of which was matched by our two artists.
Shelby Cox was listed on the program as a mezzo-soprano but we did not hear any mezzo quality to her voice which was nevertheless quite lovely. She made sense out of three selections from Aaron Copland's settings of text by Emily Dickinson. We enjoyed Tomomi Sato's piano in "Going to Heaven". In "The Chariot", Ms. Cox spun out the end like a fine silken thread.
All singers love a mad scene and that of Ophelia from Shakespeare's Hamlet was set by contemporary composer Benjamin C.S. Boyle. Now what's a mad scene without some coloratura fireworks? You will have to ask Mr. Boyle! We didn't find that his music added anything to Shakespeare's words. Still, Ms. Cox and Ms. Sato gave it a fine performance.
Samuel Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915 is taken from James Agee's prose, later used as a preamble to his book A Death in the Family. It was composed in 1947 for soprano and orchestra but was here performed by soprano Michelle Geffner and pianist Richard Fu. Clearly Ms. Geffner loves this work and, we learned later, read the book; this explains the clarity with which she painted a picture of life a century ago. We have not read the book and cannot claim to be enthralled by the work but we were drawn in by Ms. Geffner's involvement with the text which she communicated effectively in clear English.
(c) meche kroop