A Silvery Instrument Combined with Assertive Vocalism

United StatesUnited States Strauss, Wolf, Previn: Jeanine De Bique (soprano), Christopher Cano (piano), Cincinnati, Ohio. 10.2.2014 (RDA)

Strauss: Ophelia Lieder, Op. 67: Wie erkenn ich mein Treulieb; Guten Morgen‘s ist Sankt Valentinstag: Sie trügen ihn auf der Bahr bloβ 
Hugo Wolf: Frühlings übers Jahr; Das verlassene Mägdlein; Die Bekehrte; Die Spröde
Er Ist’s
Spirituals: His Name So Sweet; O What a Beautiful City; Round About the Mountain; On Ma Journey; Ain’t That Good News!
Andre Previn: Honey and Rue

Now in its 102nd season, Matinee Musicale has made it clear that it is here to stay through wars, raw Cincinnati winters, the ups and downs of the economy and the roller coaster of the “now on, now off” support of the arts. How this indispensable institution survives and forges ahead is astounding, and lovers of great music in Cincinnati are grateful for the miracle.

It took tremendous enterprise and sheer gumption for the enormously gifted Jeanine De Bique to open her recital with Richard Strauss’s rarely performed Songs of Ophelia. These three gems were culled from his unlucky Op. 67, an interesting early work that got tangled up in a dispute with the composer’s publisher and just sort of vanished for a while.

Inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, these three songs make up the bulk of Ophelia’s mad scene, and encompass the lyrical Wie erkenn’ ich mein Treulieb (How should I your true love know From another one?) the giddy and bawdy Guten Morgen, s’ist Sankt Valentinstag (To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day, All in the morning betime, And I a maid at your window, To be your Valentine.) and the mournful Sie trugen ihn auf der Bahre bloß (They bore him barefaced on the bier…And in his grave rained many a tear…).

Ms. De Bique was right on target vocally and dramatically, portraying the inarticulate and yet poetically compelling ramblings of a deranged young girl, first jilted and then left orphaned when her beloved Hamlet kills her father at sword point in a moment of madness.

The young Trinidadian soprano’s assertive vocalism and forceful presence left one thinking that she is no mere soubrette, but a great Lucia, Gilda, or Susanna in the making.

The second group of songs celebrated the melancholy and the pastoral with Hugo Wolf’s settings of Goethe and Moerike poetry Christopher Cano was the excellent accompanist, loyally following and breathing with Ms. De Bique, and then impressively taking center stage in the postlude to Die Spröde Er Ist’s. A group of gorgeously-sung spirituals brought the first half to a close.

After the intermission the second half was given to what might have been the Cincinnati premiere of Andre Previn’s Honey and Rue, a cycle of half a dozen songs about the slave trade. Originally performed and conceived for soprano Katleen Battle, Ms. De Bique brought her silvery instrument to the service of the work at hand, lending to it the necessary incisiveness and bravura through brains and soul. The young soprano sang one encore: a lovely, heartfelt “Bill” from Jerome Kern’s Showboat.

The next Matinee Musicale concert brings the fast-rising young baritone Andrew Garland and Cincinnati’s own Donna Loewy at the piano. Later in the season, the duo of violinist Ilya Kaler and pianist Alon Goldstein appear, and then two more pianists in two programs: Natasha Parensky in March and Yevgeny Subdin in April. I’ll be there for all four.

Rafael de Acha

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