Tara Erraught / Carnegie Hall 12-4-15

This recital started late enough that I was tempted to get up on my seat and start chanting “Lie-DER! Lie-DER!” but since I wanted to hear the concert and did not want to write about How I Got Permanently Banned From Carnegie Hall Due To Excess of Impatience I restrained myself.

Not getting thrown out turned out to be the right choice. The concert was in the Weill recital hall, one of the two smaller auditoriums at Carnegie Hall, and the space was just about the right size for a concert like this. The sound was very close and vivid – I can’t imagine anyone had trouble hearing or missed any nuances (I remember thinking very distinctly during Liszt’s “Die Loreley” that the loud bits were definitely loud).

The first set of songs were by Liszt, switching back and forth between French and German. My reaction to the aforementioned “Loreley” was that I could tell what Erraught was doing with it, but singer, song, and interpretation hadn’t quite clicked together yet. The click happened toward the end of that set – by “Oh! quand je dors” the phrasing felt smoother and “Jugendglück” had a vividness and animation that were characteristic of the whole rest of the recital.

Erraught introduced the second set, a series of songs in English by Frederick Delius and Roger Quilter. I have “BAM” written in the margin of my program next to Delius’s “Twilight fancies” – she was in the zone at this point, and my earlier impression of the singing/music/interpretation not having all quite found each other had completely vanished. The second Delius song, “Hidden Love,” was not really my cup of tea as a song, but it was done very well. Of the three Quilter songs, I enjoyed the first two the most (“Blow, blow thou winter wind,” a Shakespeare text which I believe based on memory of a sixth-grade theater experience is from As You Like It, and “Now sleeps the crimson petal.”)

After the intermission we heard songs by Brahms and Strauss, which for my money were the best part of the program. One thing I noticed several times was that her lowest notes (e.g. in Brahms’s “Wie Melodien zieht es mir”) did not sound as powerful as I expected, and some of the louder/higher climaxes (e.g. towards the end of Strauss’s “Cäcilie”) missed the blow-you-out-of-your seat mark – the notes were all correct and in tune, but the experience was not overwhelming; I wondered if she wasn’t holding back a bit out of caution or due to the smaller size of the hall.

That said, I found I didn’t care – as noted, the Brahms and Strauss songs were the highlight of the whole program, and they were fantastic. I was particularly impressed at “einsame Träne” in “Die Mainnacht”, and also with the drama of “Mädchenfluch”, which even if you didn’t know what a Mädchen or a Fluch is, is pretty clearly about something gnarly. (It’s about a girl putting a curse on a boy – but what she’s wishing on the young man is not exactly death and dismemberment.) The mingled delicacy and intensity of Strauss’s “Die Nacht” were also wonderful, and ditto for “Morgen”, which Erraught gave a beautiful shimmery tone. (Before she told us what the second encore would be, someone in the audience called out “Sing “Morgen” again!”)

There were three encores. Erraught explained that she couldn’t come all this way without singing something Irish (to cheers from the back) but although she did sing “Danny Boy”* for the second encore, the first was more interesting – apparently there was an early nineteenth-century Irish composer named Balfe, and he wrote an Italian bel canto version of Shakespeare’s Falstaff from which Erraught sang (with much charm) Nanetta’s aria. The final encore was a choose your own adventure – she asked whether we would like a song or an aria, someone said “Aria!” and she sang a brilliant “Nacqui all’affanno . . . non più mesta” from Rossini’s La Cenerentola.

(Also, for the record: Henning Ruhe provided involved and dramatic piano accompaniment.)

*I had a little Casio keyboard as a child, and it came pre-programmed with a series of tunes it could accompany, with lights flashing on the keys so that you could play the melody while the keyboard beeped out a simple harmony. This is how I learned the tune of “Danny Boy.” I did not know until I was an adult that there are words.

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