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.

Monday, November 11, 2019


Claire Kuttler, Edward Pleasant, Inbar Goldmann, and Pavel Suliandziga

Just as there is an abundance of vocal talent in New York City--talent that merits our attention--there are also compositional talents lurking among the faculty of our conservatories--talents deserving more recognition than they receive. A case in point is Dina Pruzhansky, a gifted and versatile young composer whose name may not yet be on everyone's lips--but one who has achieved recognition from her peers and multiple awards. This situation is about to change when her Suite for Piano, Strings, and Percussion will premiere at Carnegie Hall next March 3rd. We expect that will bring her to the attention of the music loving public.

Yesterday we had an opportunity to witness her versatility. We heard quite a variety of music, from music theater to opera, at the 92nd St. Y.  Bringing her works to life were soprano Claire Kuttler, mezzo-soprano Inbar Goldmann, tenor Pavel Suliandziga, baritone Edward Pleasant, and cellist Tyler James.

The "lightest" selections were from Central Park: The Musical and we particularly enjoyed "Observation", a jazzy setting of a pithy verse by Dorothy Parker that surprised us, in light of the fact that it was written for children!

The most "academic" work was On Love and Land, the texts of which comprised letters written over several decades by a woman to her husband. Although we liked the instrumental writing and Ms. Kuttler's dramatic presentation, we find settings of prose to be rather tedious and unmelodic, with the exception of the final song "When Orange Blossoms are in Bloom". There was a nice interplay between piano and cello.

Not to worry, dear reader, because there was plenty of material that we enjoyed a great deal. A worthy librettist was found in Ethan Kanfer for a musical called The Promotion, based on the 1977 film Office Romance. The lyrics were clever and fit the music hand in glove. Mr. Pleasant brought out the rhythm of the words and music in "Get Yourself a Slice". Even better was "Don't Say a Word" in which the ensemble played a musical version of the telephone game, passing along gossip about a letter that was meant to be private. We were glad it was shared!

Ms. Pruzhansky was born in Russia and still retains a feel for Russian artistry. We loved her Four Vocal Miniatures (after the poetry of Aleksandr Blok) which rhymed and scanned, bringing forth lovely melodies in the mode that is so typically Russian. Ms. Kuttler delivered the first miniature "Her Songs" which was seductive. Mr. Suliandziga (who could enthrall us by singing an IRS document) sang the next three. "The Red Moon at the White Night" had a haunting melody and some lovely rippling piano figures.

With Ms. Pruzhansky's successful 2014 opera Shulamit, she paid hommage to her Israeli upbringing. Ms. Goldmann (whom we have heard before singing in Hebrew) was lovely in the heroine's lament when she is chosen for King Solomon's harem; we heard some affecting melismatic singing. Our favorite was the wedding song for Shulamit and the shepherd she loved "Ma Yau Dodaych"', beautifully sung by Ms. Goldmann in duet with Mr. Suliandziga.

Mr. Suliandiziga delighted us with "You are Youthful Like Never Before", the setting of a text by Peretz Markish which was translated from Yiddish into Russian by Anna Akhmatova. There was ample variety in the dynamics.

Hearing such a variety of styles in one all-too-brief concert served to illuminate Ms. Pruzhansky's versatility and also to reaffirm our opinion that prose does not stimulate vocal melody. We are looking forward to hearing more of this composer's music and feel quite sure that her name will soon be on everyone's lips.

We would like to mention that she is not solely a composer but an educator and superb collaborative pianist; it was a treat to hear her play her own music. 

© meche kroop

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