|Benedicte Jourdois and Äneas Humm|
It was a little over three years ago that we first heard the then-20-year-old Swiss baritone Äneas Humm. He was already famous in Europe and was invited here by the German Forum who presented him in recital. We were astonished to hear someone so young and so gifted.
Yesterday Mr. Humm completed three years of study with Edith Wiens at Juilliard, earning his Master of Music degree. He arrived as a finely cut gem and Juilliard provided the polish. His voice has expanded in the lower register and rounded out in the midrange.
Most Swiss are adept with several languages and Mr. Humm is no exception. Although German is the one spoken in his hometown Zürich, he sounds terrific in French as well. But he also sang in Hungarian!
Our initial hearing of Mr. Humm involved some Grieg and introduced us to the songs of the prolific early 20th c. composer Othmar Schoeck who happily avoided atonality and wrote some lovely songs. Both would appear on yesterday's program.
The program opened with Cantata#4 De Profundis by the 17th c. composer Nicolaus Bruhns, composed and sung in Latin. He was accompanied by Caitlyn Koester's harpsichord, violinists Chiara Stauffer and Naomi Dumas, and cellist Madleine Renée Bouïssou. The lowlying tessitura seemed not to daunt Mr. Humm, nor did the alternation of legato and staccato. We particularly enjoyed the melismatic singing which took on the character of a vocalise.
Mr. Humm's attention to dynamics and appropriate gesture marked the entire program. There was a set of three songs by Edvard Grieg from Op. 48, our favorite of which was the familiar and charming "Lauf der Welt" which was perfectly suited to Mr. Humm's personality. Otherwise we heard a finely rendered crescendo .
The Schoeck songs were deeply felt and beautifully played by collaborative pianist Benedicte Jourdois, whose playing has always given us great pleasure. She seems to breathe with the singer, providing a perfect partnership. In the Fauré songs which followed, Mr. Humm was nominally "on the book" which seemed unnecessary to us since he knew the material. This generally leads us to focus more on the piano and we were rewarded with some gorgeous arpeggi in "En Sourdine".
Four short folksongs by Bartok would have been enjoyed more had their been translations.
The recital closed with Schubert songs, at which Mr. Humm excels. We loved Ms. Jourdois' rhythmic accompaniment in "Der Wanderer an den Mond" and the rocking accompaniment to "Der Jüngling an der Quelle". "Im Abendrot" came across as a devotional prayer and we simply swooned. Ms. Jourdois' slow chords enhanced the exquisite effect of Mr. Humm's tender pianissimo singing.
There was an encore, to our delight--Schubert's "Wanderers Nachtlied". Since travel is in Mr. Humm's immediate future, we can understand his choices! He is heading for the Weimar Opernhaus where he will perform a variety of roles. The one we would most like to see is his Papageno which will give plenty of leeway for him to express his engaging personality as well as his fine voice.
We hope he will return before too long!
(c) meche kroop