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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Spring Breakdown 2016: The Recitals

We look at the best solo performance of the year so far.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Lisette Oropesa (right) in recital at the Park Avenue Armory.
Photo by Da Peng Nuo.
It takes nerve to go out on stage by yourself, or to take the stage with just your voice and a hopefully friendly pianist providing accompaniment. That's the premise of this look at five great recitals for piano and voice that Superconductor was witness to in the spring of 2016. Presented in just-about-chronological order.

As always with these roundup list-type articles, the links go to complete reviews and all quotes are drawn from Superconductor and are by myself, Paul J. Pelkonen. Enjoy.

Marc-Andre Hamelin at Carnegie Hall
"Mr. Hamelin ended the first half of the evening with a thrilling Gaspard a la Nuit, that trio of pianistic nightmares from the pen of Maurice Ravel. He made Ondine, the flowing opening movement sound easy, with an impossibly smooth legato between notes as his pianos pun the tale of Ravel’s water-sprite. The central movement had eerie hollow notes in its portrait of a hangman’s gibbet, with ghostly chords ornamenting the slow tread of the thematic line."

Lisette Oropesa at the Armory
"Ms. Oropesa returned sheathed in red. She then sang a glorious “Clair de lune,” launching a set of songs by Gabriel Fauré. Here, the directness of German is replaced by the diaphanous, elusive sounds of French, sweetly sung over an accompaniment that shifts and drifts on its way to Impressionism. These songs were transportive, all pastel colors and muted chords, the murmurs of a dreamer who just happened to write his reveries down."

Dmitri Hvorostovsky at Carnegie Hall
"The smooth, rich baritone was in fighting shape, with its upper register intact in key dramatic moments. It was first heard in a set of five songs by Mikhail Glinka, the composer who wrote what are arguably the earliest operas of any lasting importance in Russian history. Glinka's songs are settings of Russian texts but also have an Italian influence, with bel canto ornamentation and virtuoso passages that Mr. Hvorostovsky navigated with liquid ease. Songs like "Say not that it grieves the heart" and "Doubt" engrossed the listener in a well of emotion, while "Bolero" had distinct rhythmic snap and a vitality that the singer brought to the surface."

Paul Appleby at Zankel Hall
"The second half of the program featured a change of accompanist, with Mr Aucoin joining Mr. Appleby to play the keyboard parts in his cycle of songs based on the poetry of the late Joseph Merrill. Commissioned as part of Carnegie Hall's current celebration of its 125th anniversary, these were compelling works that constantly forced singer and audience off balance. Mr. Appleby used all of his resources, reaching for his highest notes and other times delivering the text in something close to speech. "

Emanuel Ax at Carnegie Hall
"Mr. Ax gave this brief work some legitimacy with its wistful rhythms and hard-charging dance theme. The Appassionata sonata followed, with its suggestion of the "fate" theme from the Fifth Symphony and marathon last movement. Here, Mr. Ax's playing moved toward the clinical and even academic, a performance that was probing and ultimately, revealing."

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats