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RECITAL REVIEW
Green Music Center / Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Elina Garanša, mezzo soprano. Kevin Murphy, piano

Mezzo Soprano Elina Garanca

SONG CYCLES FOR CONNOISSEURS

by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Elina Garanca’s April 9 Weill Hall recital was a connoisseur’s program, eschewing the more popular song literature and concentrating on mostly subtle and evocative works of Schumann, Berg and Richard Strauss.

With pianist Kevin Murphy, the Latvian mezzo soprano, famous from the opera stage as a sumptuous Carmen, programmed four of Schumann's Op. 25 "Myrthen" songs and the introspective and demanding cycle "Frauenliebe und -Leben," Op. 42. Beginning with “Widmung,” the Op. 25 group was delivered with quick tempos and minimal attention to warmth and color. There was artful balance in the familiar “Der Nussbaum,” with clear pianistic arpeggios, and more vocal power in “Jemand.” Mr. Murphy’s discerning pianism was always supportive and nuanced. In “Zwei Lieder der Brut” (Nos. 11 and 12), Ms. Garanca spun each of the soft-sung endings with delicate ritards.

"Frauenliebe und -Leben" is an eight-section work from 1840 setting out a woman’s love--through first contact, marriage and death--set to poems by Adelbert von Chamisso. Unlike Schubert’s song cycles with integrated piano parts, Schumann’s cycle has many stretches of independent piano parts and a lengthy postlude, here ethereally played by Mr. Murphy. There were quick transitions between sections and sporadically the singer moved to an operatic voice, filling the hall with glorious sound. “Du Ring an meinem Finger” was lovely with just the right tempo, the one big forte powerfully sung. In the final song, “Nun hast du mir den ersten Schemerz getan,” the pathos and sense of loss were palpable.

Following a change of gowns (shimmering grey to shimmering blue) Ms. Garanca also changed vocal gears with Berg’s "Seven Early Songs" from 1908. Here her voice had extra sonority and occasionally covered Mr. Murphy’s piano line. “Die Nachtigal” was performed forcefully and underscored the contrasting harmonies, and in “In Zimmer,” the piano and voice played off their contrasting lines with clipped endings. Mr. Murphy played one of his few fortissimo passages of the night in the opening of "Liebesode." Throughout, Ms. Garanca offered singing of assurance and communication, a highlight of the recital.

Six Richard Strauss songs closed the recital, and here again the singer avoided popular works in favor of the epicurean, although the well-known “Allerseelen” was included. The “All mein Gedanken” had the requisite frolicking character, and “Meinem Kinde” was captivatingly lyrical, with Mr. Murphy contributing a rippling piano part. Mr. Garanca floated a soft and high tessitura in “Leises Lied” and projected a weighty sound in the dramatic closing work, “Heimliche Aufforderung." Opera singing trumps lieder in much of Strauss.

Ms. Garanca rewarded the loud but not insistent applause of the audience of 850 with one encore, Brahms’ “Meine Liebe ist grün.” It was deftly sung, the phrasing earnest and exquisitely sculpted.