domingo, septiembre 02, 2007

The reign of the song recital

Since the beginning of historical times the human voice has been the most sensitive of instruments. Any concert season provides a rich panorama of composers and interpreters that have honored the expressive possibilities of the voice, and so it is in 2007. Herewith a selection with ups and downs of what I heard in recent weeks.

I will start with a true rarity, the recital at AMIJAI of the very talented Argentine countertenor Franco Fagioli accompanied by the guitarist Pablo González Jazey. I have never before heard that particular combination of sound, and the chosen repertoire was a premiere: original works and arrangements by Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829), well-known to guitarists through his three Concerti but also, as transpired on this occasion, a sensitive writer for the voice in the tradition of Italian bel canto. We heard the "Six ariette" op.95 on poems of the famous eighteenth-century librettist Pietro Metastasio, nice music mostly, with one of them in the minor mode showing an attractive refinement; and the "Six cavatine" op.39, going through many moods similar to those of the bel canto operas. And also arrangements by Giuliani of pieces by composers such as Cimarosa and Mayr (and of Rossini as an encore, the famous "Di tanti palpiti" from "Tancredi"). All very melodic and ornamented, quite difficult to sing and with skillful accompaniments.

Fagioli is having a brilliant European career, with main roles in Baroque operas led by illustrious specialists. Logical enough, for he is the possessor of a most beautiful voice with a wide register that encompasses contralto and soprano tones, and he uses it with consumate command of the most arduous florid lines and an appealing dramatic sense. Everything was finely sung and I especially enjoyed the minor mode song referred to above and the virtuoso display of "Di tanti palpiti". The guitarist, born in Tucumán, was absolutely impeccable, his very clear technique abetted by a natural sense of phrasing and perfect ensemble with the singer.

Also at AMIJAI, there was a fine recital by one of our best sopranos, Carla Filipcic-Holm, admirably accompanied by pianist Silvia Kersenbaum, a great solo player that seems to find the world of song quite congenial. There were in the programme two rarities, songs by Clara Wieck (Schumann's wife) written in her husband's style and an intense one, "In the garden of my father", by Alma Mahler , along with Schumann's cycle "Frauenliebe und Leben" ("Love and life of women"), three Grieg songs in German translations and Ravel's "Scheherazade", that exquisite cycle of Oriental evocation. Encores: "Alfonsina y el mar", the famous song by Ariel Ramírez and Félix Luna (the latter was in the audience) and more Grieg ("A Swan"). The soprano was in full form and I would make no distinction between interpretations, for everything was carefully considered and communicated, with her lovely timbre very well handled. I would only add that she surprised me in Ravel, for she is German-oriented but found the proper style .

A very special recital was offered at the Museo Fernández Blanco by soprano Sylvie Robert accompanied with admirable accuracy by Andrea García : an all-Webern programme! It may seem difficult for the listener, but in fact I found it refreshing and interesting. The ten songs of youth (probably a premiere) are still Late Romantic, whilst the four opuses chosen are atonal (op.3 and 4,on Stefan George, 1909 , and op.12 on varied texts from writers such as Strindberg and Goethe) and with a gradual concentration of the musical elements, or twelve-tone ("Three Lieder on poems by Hildegard Jone", op.25). The surprise for those who may feel that Webern is of forbidding complication was how well he writes for the voice. And the communicative musicality of Sylvie Robert made it quite convincing. Ans she is versatile too, witness her unexpected encore, a picaresque song from Messager's operetta "L'amour masqué" done with great charm.

Another special recital was offered by baritone Víctor Torres accompanied by lutenist Igor Herzog at the Jockey Club for Ars Nobilis. The First Part was dedicated to great Elizabethan composers: songs by John Dowland and lute pieces by William Byrd. The Second Part featured some beautiful Purcell pieces for voice and lute and as contrast, leaving England, lute scores by Ennemond Gaultier, a French composer. Although the baritone wasn't in his best voice, he displayed his honest , expressive art in what is a new field for him; his English was good. Herzog is a true virtuoso and played Renaissance lute in the First Part and Baroque lute in the Second.

La Bella Música in an intimate hall of the Sofitel presented baritone Burkhard Von Puttkamer, who payed a return visit to BA and tackled the arduous Schubert cycle "Die Winterreise" ("The Winter Voyage") accompanied by Philip Mayers, an Australian (debut). In 2006 I felt that the baritone had little voice but showed good taste and musical professionalism; in 2007 I thought that the enormous interpretative and vocal challenge was too much for his means, although again he knew the music well and had fine intonation; but this music is for a bigger, darker voice and for an artist capable of delving the ultimate depths. I was happier with the pianist's clean traversal of the 24 Lieder, though with too little insight on the dramatic significance of some Schubertian figurations.

For Buenos Aires Herald

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