An opera lover addicted to Sturm und Drang, massive sets, big voices and lots of action might find the Lieder recital to be a bit minimalistic. But, and this is a BIG BUT, all depends on the artistry of the singer and the piano partner, not to mention the skill with which the composer interprets the poetry and the worthiness of the poet whose work is being set When they are true artists the scenery and the story-telling take place in the listener’s mind.
This was made perfectly clear in a flawless recital given by baritone Jesse Blumberg and pianist Audrey Axinn as part of the Salon/Sanctuary Concerts, a series created by Artistic Director Jessica Gould. The overall program spanning the 18th and early 19th c. was well thought out in terms of variety and pacing. The lovely warm round timbre of Mr. B’s voice was used to great effect; phrases and words were beautifully colored. Each song became a mini drama. Particularly notable were Thomas Arne’s setting of Shakespeare’s “Where Daisies Pied” sung with great wit and humor; Mozart’s “Abendempfindung” communicated with great depth of feeling, and Beethoven’s “An die ferne Geliebte”, a cycle dripping with sehnsucht.
Again on a lighter note was Beethoven’s delightful ditty “Der Kuss” and the “Flea Song” from Goethe’s Faust. The simple rustic comfort of “Der Einsame” and the psychological terror of “Der Doppelganger” were effectively depicted in Mr. B’s Schubert selections.
In every case, Ms. Axinn used her skills at the pianoforte to convey wind, rain, crickets and such. During the Flea Song one could imagine the fleas bouncing from key to key. What a pleasure to hear two artists complementing each other so sensitively and the audience complementing the artists by being totally silent and attentive, being individually and collectively enraptured.
--meche kroop for The Opera Insider
3 months ago