First of all, I owe John thanks for talking this recital up, or else I might not have gone, and I would have missed a fantastic two hours of music.
This was a recital by four young singers (and five accompanists), all of whom are making their way up in the musical world and if life is in any degree fair, we ought to be hearing several of them at the Met in a few years.
First up was tenor Timothy Fallon, who sang four Strauss songs and three more by Amy Beach. I don’t often get to hear Beach’s music performed live, and this is a shame. Fallon seemed more in his element with this latter set of pieces – the final lines of “I send my heart up to thee” were really well done.
Next was a baritone, Kelly Markgraf, who started out far too loud in the first two of five songs (for voice, viola and piano) by Charles Martin Loeffler. Must have been nerves, I guess, but the sound was just projected too hard for the hall (the Zankel auditorium, the smaller and more intimate of Carnegie Hall’s two stages). But he dialed it back as he got going, and by the last selections I was sorry there were not ten songs instead of five. “Le rossignol” contained some really sensitive singing (and very elegant viola playing – I liked the harmonics; the violist, Paul Neubauer, impressed me in both this and “reverie en sourdine.”)
Mezzo Jennifer Johnson Cano – what a great voice! And we got an extra forty seconds or so of it for free, because she stopped her last selection, Liszt’s “Oh! quand je dors” and began over. This did not bother me in the least, because her performance of this song was terrific. The sound was big and full and the rhythm of words and musical phrases was elegant and expressive. I also enjoyed her second song, again by Liszt, “Der du von dem Himmel bist,” especially the part after “Suesser Friede, komm…” – this was exciting and dramatic and as with Markgraf, I wanted to hear more. This is the only problem with recitals like this. Each performer gets only a handful of songs, and the setup requires them to stop just when they get started.
After intermission Simone Osborne sang three pieces by Verdi and a little bit of Rossini. The first Verdi selection, “La seduzione,” demonstrated a real feel (I thought) for timing – there were several little silences in this that were just the right length. And “Stornello” revealed a really charming actor as well as a good singer. I have a feeling that Osborne can be dynamite on the operatic stage. And the third song, “Deh, pietoso” – I have “wow” written and underlined in the program next to that one. The first section of this, before the line “on the vase there near the window,” was riveting.
Finally, Piotr Beczala was there too and holy hell this was great. The list of what he sang was not in the program, so I hope I have identified these correctly. The first was “Ja, du weisst es, teur Seele” (a.k.a. “Zueignung”) by Strauss and the second Carl Bohm’s “Still wie die Nacht,” after which we had three songs in Polish the first lines of which I did not catch (the English translations of the first lines of the second two were “my dearest angel” and “I remember quiet bright golden days”) and, as an encore, a selection from an opera which I again failed to write down. I don’t think I have heard many Polish songs in recitals – perhaps never in my limited concert-going experience – and I was listening with my eyes closed, without reading the projected supertitles, because the singing was so great that I didn’t want to miss any of it. It’s intense and the tone was nail-you-to-the-wall beautiful and well – you know. Wow. The Bohm song and the three shorter Polish ones were the highlight of his performance for me.
Well done all!