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Chamber
SURPRISING IVES TRIO AND SONGS AT VMMF'S HANNA CENTER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 24, 2022
Chamber
SEMINAL SCHUBERT CYCLE PERFORMANCE FROM STEGALL-ZIVIAN AT VMMF
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, July 23, 2022
Opera
MARIN'S STRIPPED-DOWN OPERA CHARMS
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 17, 2022
Chamber
MOZART AND BRAHMS AN AUSPICIOUS COUPLE AT VMMF FESTIVAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 17, 2022
Chamber
CLARINIST HOEPRICH'S VIRTUOSITY IN VMMF OPENING CONCERT
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, July 16, 2022
Recital
AGGRESSIVE PIANISM IN MYER'S MENDO FESTIVAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 14, 2022
Opera
SONOROUS WAGNER GALA AND CAPACITY CROWD AT VALLEJO'S EMPRESS
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, July 9, 2022
Choral and Vocal
TRAVELING CHORISTERS SO CO DEBUT IN TWO BIG CANTATAS
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, June 25, 2022
Opera
VERDI'S THEATRICAL LA TRAVIATA TRIUMPHS AT CINNABAR
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, June 19, 2022
Symphony
CLOUDS AND PASSION: MARIN SYMPHONY'S STELLAR CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, June 19, 2022
CHAMBER REVIEW
Valley of the Moon Music Festival / Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Kyle Stegall, tenor; Eric Zivian, piano

Tenor Kyle Stegall

RARE LANG SONGS SPARKLE AT VOM FESTIVAL VIDEO RECITAL

by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Unexpected pleasures are often the best. Valley of the Moon Chamber Festival presented a such a pleasure last week-a July 21 recorded performance by tenor Kyle Stegall and pianist Eric Zivian in another mini-recital (very mini-just 15 minutes!) of six songs by the nineteenth century German composer Josephine Lang.

The music of Lang, a contemporary of Fanny (sister of Felix) Mendelssohn and Clara (wife of Robert) Schumann, is a find. In this century the works of many women who were composing in relative obscurity two centuries ago are now being rediscovered and brought to light. Ms. Lang was a prodigy who composed many dozens of lieder, piano, and chamber works and, like Clara and Fanny, her works were esteemed highly enough to be published and performed. But music historians either were not aware of Lang's output or simply excluded her from textbooks and anthologies because she was female, and didn't have a famous name. At any rate I had never heard of her as I should have, since she was a composer of outstanding art songs and chamber music.

Born in the year 1815 and active as pianist and composer beginning in her teens until her death in 1880, Lang composed these six songs between 1847 and 1860. Her work shows the same melodic and pianistic skills as her contemporaries, harmonic invention, text setting and accompaniments are all comparable to the best of the era. They are lovely songs, highly singable and accessible, with the expected lyricism and soulful ruminating on the beloved, full of melancholy desire, momentary joy, eternal woe and fresh yearnings. Lang's songs should be included in anthologies alongside all the other established and heretofore ignored women composers.

In this recital six well-chosen songs of contrasting nature were presented: "Abschied" ("Parting", 1847), Den Abschied schnell genommen" ("Parting taken quickly", 1848), "Namenlos" ("Nameless", 1847), "Im reinsten Gold" ("In purest gold", 1872), "Die Blumen sind alle verblüht" ("The flowers are all faded", 1872) and "Frühlingsglaube" ("Faith in Spring" 1860).

Without any exaggeration it can be said that Mr. Stegall and Mr. Zivian gave a definitive performance of these songs, sadly only via zoom, leaving me wishing for the in-person experience. Mr. Stegall's controlled yet lyrically soaring tenor and Mr. Zivian's electricity and sensitivity at the fortepiano transported us to what could have been an evening in Clara Schumann's salon.

Mr. Stegall's appears to have experienced some vocal settling and maturation since I first heard him two years ago. Technically very secure, he floated through the text-rich yet legato phrases, maintaining an intimate speaking-like quality throughout. Interpretatively his moods ranged from reverie-like to the poignantly desperate to brimming with joy as he contemplated the joys or pains of love, longing and separation, projecting the words with focused understanding and feeling. Lang's settings do not shy away from the upper register, and his top notes bloomed dramatically for a very fulfilling performance of these heady songs.

As always, Mr. Zivian's illuminations are a masterclass in collaborative piano. Every nuance is highlighted, every phrase perfectly shaped, every dynamic coaxed from the beautiful Rausch fortepiano. Personally he is magnetic, enthralling the audience with his listening and watching and bringing attention to every musical-emotional detail of poem and score.

One of the most important aspects of singing and playing art songs is the rigorous language requirement for professional singers and pianists who are non-native speakers. Correct and idiomatic pronunciation and meaning of not just one, but several European "singing" languages is daunting for many and translates into years of intense study and practice to get it right. That hard preparation and accomplishment was discernible here and duly appreciated.

The room setting for this recording is beautiful, but surprisingly there were some sound issues not present on the previous video performance of Beethoven and Brahms which was perfect.