|Steven Blier, Oren Fader, Corrine Winters, Leonardo Granados, Efrain Solis, and Michael Barrett|
(photo by Cherilynn Tsushima)
Guest review by Cullen Gandy:
NYFOS has been at the business of programming these evenings of music for decades, and its progenitor, Steven Blier, has been the glue for this endeavor in the New York classical music scene. It is for this reason that they enjoy a devoted following not only of dedicated audience members, but of equally devoted artists; many of whom perform with the company for the entirety of their careers. At a NYFOS concert, you are equally likely to see a Stephanie Blythe as you are any up-and-coming young artist, co-mingling to expose the public to great art song.
On April 24th, the New York Festival of Song featured music written to the poetry of Spanish poet, Federico García Lorca. It was especially neat to hear some music that was actually arranged by the poet himself, in the beginning of the recital (he being quite the musician in his own right).
The evening featured the vocal talents of two artists that I would consider to be well-established brands in the opera world, in Corrine Winters and Efraín Solís. These are voices that my generation have been able to follow in parallel, as they traverse the path from student, to young artist, and finally professional. It is exciting to see the product of the whole process that these relatively young artists have been working for, put on display. There were a number of really sensitive musicians shaping and guiding the voices, including, of course, directors Steven Blier and Michael Barrett at the helm of two large grand pianos.
The concert obviously featured an evening which consisted of a majority Spanish language offering; with the exception of one set of two English songs.
Corinne Winters’ soprano has a calm kind of depth to the voice that makes the Spanish sound as sanguine and romantic as you want it to, from the perspective of the audience. I wasn’t really surprised by that fact, as she is currently electrifying the field of opera in many of the great lyric soprano roles, like Traviata’s Violetta and Onegin’s Tatyana, both here at home and abroad. She is one of those rare singers that has the good fortune of having the attractive look to grab your attention, and the vocal control to keep it.
My favorite song that she sung of the evening was De Falla’s "Soneto a Córdoba". This song, written to the poetry of Góngora, gave Winters the ability to showcase her depth not just of range, but of color. It is a proud song, not unlike a national anthem with a pastoral-esque kind of poetic nature (featuring odes to different aspects of the city Córdoba). The accompaniment has a Renaissance, Moteverde-aria kind of effect; marked by rolling, wide open chords. The voice has to control the leaping intervals of the piece (a melodic line that is a different from the antique nature of the surrounding music) and make the melody smooth; as though it was step-wise motion. It seemed as though Corrine was able to accomplish this effortlessly.
Baritone Efraín Solís’ voice is elegant and clear as a bell. He has an earnest delivery that draws an audience into his face, almost as if you are watching him on a film, instead of a stage. I loved hearing how easily the flourishes and minor details flowed out of him, as he sang. One of the most endearing moments of the evening, for the audience, was when he sang "Take this waltz" by Leonard Cohen. It was one of the longer pieces on offering of the evening, but there was so much vivid poetry that everyone just ate it up. The emotionality of the singing really lent itself well to the verse, and he physically delivered it with an understated kind of grace.
This is one of the stronger aspects of the NYFOS company; they have been practicing so long at the art of programming, that they know how to elevate the enthusiasm as the concert goes on. The applause for each of the subsequent pieces was more and more energetic than the one that came before it. Every now and again, Mr. Blier would stop and give little dissertations about certain aspects of the songs as they related to the life of the poet. It felt half as if it were a lecture, and half as though the audience was chatting with a really knowledgeable guy at a piano bar in that respect. Though it was charming, and the audience loved it, I usually prefer when people leave the discernment for the program notes and the music.
I would be remiss if I didn’t make sure to point out how much the evening benefited from the guitar playing of Oren Fader. If the guitar is the salient symbol of the Spanish musical experience, then his playing encapsulated every bit of that panache. He was plugged into the sound system, but the blend and balance with the singers and collaborators was spot on.
If you get the change to make it to one of NYFOS’s many concerts throughout the year, I definitely entreat you to make the trip up to the Upper West Side to experience it.
(c) meche kroop