Friday, September 10, 2010

American Art Song Recital

Last evening, I had the good pleasure of attending a recital presented by Diane Reich, soprano, and Scott Holden, piano, at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. The evening of American Art songs featured works by Amy Beach, Samuel Barber, Henry Mollicone, John Pickett, and Lori Laitman. It was nice to revisit some old friends while being introduced to some wonderful pieces with which I was not familiar.
Art song has always held a special place in my heart because it was where I first began my work as a collaborative artist and remained my specialty throughout my studies. In the past few years, my focus has shifted to instrumental chamber works and I am growing to enjoy that work more and more. Last night's recital was a refreshing bath of sound as Reich's luxurious sounds and impeccable diction washed over my ears and soul. It became evident to me while sitting in last night's audience that it has been far too long since I have collaborated with a singer in recital. That is something that must be rectified soon. I am planning a program with a dear friend for Spring, 2011 in New Mexico, but I truly hope I can find an interested singer in the Memphis area to perform with prior to that engagement.
For this musician, the highlight of the recital was the set of sacred songs composed by Samuel Barber. In addition to his familiar works "Crucifixion" and "A Slumber Song for the Madonna," I was introduced to two other Barber songs that I plan to add to my repertoire soon. "The Praises of God" was quite charming despite its unusual style. "The Monk and His Cat" stole my heart! The American jazz idiom heard in the piano is superbly scored while allowing the cat's wanderings up and down the keyboard to provide interjections of humor without disrupting the music's flow. I suppose it's just another example of Barber's mastery of the vocal form.
The last half of the program featured compositions by living American composers. While all three sets had notable qualities, the works of Henry Mollicone were most interesting to me. I am currently unfamiliar with the composer's work, but anticipate investigating his oeuvre in more detail in the near future. The excellence of the performance of these works can probably be attributed to the fact that Dr. Reich has completed extensive research on the composer's vocal music, making her a leading authority in the field. The first works of Henry Mollicone that I encountered were "The Frost Pane"; "If You Were Coming in Fall"; "I Never Saw a Moor"; and "May's Love." Not only were the vocal lines creative and interesting, but the piano was given exquisite melodies that were an outstanding compliment to the works as a whole.
Now I find myself realizing just how much I miss working with singers on a regular basis in their weekly lessons. The passion for the work went far beyond the people with whom I collaborated or the income earned; the aspect that brought me the most joy was regular interaction with the wonderful literature written for voice and piano. Regardless of what else I may play, my heart will always long to return to my first love of the collaborative piano literature.