in: Reviews

March 14, 2010

Italienisches Liederbuch of Hugo Wolf from the [plain] song

by

Saturday afternoon, in Beverly, Endicott College and musicians from a new group, the [plain] song presented Hugo Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch — complete. Endicott’s new and intimate Rose Performance Hall was the venue for the [plain] song’s first of three concerts devoted to the complete songs of Wolf.

In this concert, Emily Quane, soprano, and David Wilson, tenor, were joined respectively by pianists Raquel Gorgojo and Yoko Kida.

What a treat it was to hear the richness of the texts sung with such exquisite clarity and purpose. The enunciation was so clear that one didn’t need the English translations that were thoughtfully and discretely projected above the stage. The shifts in vocal color reflected the subtext, chilling at times, heartwarming at others. This listener was reminded of the harmonic shifts that convey the emotional undercurrents of Puccini’s characters.

Coquettish behavior, pleading, feigned indifference, outrage, and tenderness: One rarely has such an opportunity to eavesdrop on the highs and lows of a relationship. Reflecting the situation of each song, a lifted eyebrow, a defiantly thrust jaw, a turned head, or averted eyes, spoke volumes. The pacing of the songs made the cycle a story. If you were not there, you missed a treasure of a musical experience.

The “accompanying” piano was a true partner to the voice in these performances, sometimes moody, sometimes buoyant, setting the mood of the song, sustaining it, suggestive throughout, and appropriately closing each piece. Seasoned performers with long résumés, both pianists rendered their parts sensitively, however demanding in both technique and emotion. Both engaged beautifully in the give and take of the partnership with their singers. It was a pleasure to hear such ensemble work, “collaborative piano” at its best.

The attention to the “set” was indicative of the care with which the entire program was conceived and presented. Lovely in its simplicity, it consisted of a single seat discretely back and off to the side; the close-by table with a magnificent orchid nodding back toward the performing musicians. It took care of what could have been an awkward waiting one’s turn as the songs were presented in small groups by first one and then the other pair of performers.

An informed and informing introduction to the cycle of songs was provided New England Conservatory Professor Deborah Stein, who sketched Hugo Wolf’s place in the great stream of German lieder.

The [plain] song can be heard again continuing the Wolf song cycles on Sunday April 18 and on Sunday May 9 at 4pm in Endicott College’s Rose Performance Hall, a delightful new performing arts theatre with wonderful acoustics for performers and audience alike.

Right on the coast, Endicott College is small, but it is poised to make a big impact on the cultural life of the North Shore with its new performing arts center and such wonderful programming. Don’t miss it.

Lyle Davidson, composer, studied at New England Conservatory and Brandeis. He is on the faculty of the New England Conservatory where he teaches Solfege, 16th-century Counterpoint, and Music in Education courses.

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