United States Gabriel Kahane, Gabriela Lena Frank, Ned Rorem, Lee Hoiby, Jeffrey Wood, Paul Phillips, Steven Mark Kohn, Lori Laitman, Jake Heggie, Stephen Paulus and Tom Cipullo: Andrew Garland (baritone), Donna Loewy (piano), Anderson Center, Matinee Musicale Club, Cincinnati, OH. 16.11.2014 (RDA)
This past Sunday at the Anderson Center, and as part of the 102nd Anniversary Season of The Matinee Musicale Club of Cincinnati, baritone Andrew Garland and pianist Donna Loewy took the sizeable audience on a journey of discovery. The program include largely unknown American works ranging from the well-established composers Lee Hoiby and Jake Heggie, to the lesser-known (though no less accomplished) Tom Cipullo and Paul Phillips.
The concert was sung in English, with one exception, “El nacimiento Cifar” by Gabriela Lena Frank, an interesting example of writing, using a Nicaraguan folkloric-religious text set to distinctly dissonant music. Garland sustained audience attention, handling the jagged vocal line (interspersed with Sprechstimme), with aplomb and clear Spanish diction.
Throughout the sixteen or so songs, Garland demonstrated that he is a fine communicator. He relished the off-the-wall humor of Gabriel Kahane’s “Opera Scene” and Lori Laitman’s “Refrigerator,” and sensitively handled the straightforward folk settings of Steven Mark Kohn, as well as the sober moods of Ned Rorem’s “The Lordly Hudson” and Jeffrey Wood’s “Psalm.”
Garland cuts a fine figure and uses his attractive baritone intelligently and generously. That generosity, possibly mixed with the fatigue of travel, rehearsals and teaching a master class at CCM, may have been the cause of a few moments in which the singer faltered in his approach to some high-lying phrases. But for the most part, Garland sang well and fearlessly throughout his range, displaying a solid technique and an imaginative use of vocal colors.
Donna Loewy is a masterful accompanist, although that word does not begin to convey what this artist does at the piano. Ms. Loewy is accompanist-in-residence at CCM, where she teaches collaborative piano, works with pianists and singers, plays auditions, and mentors the next generation of artists like Garland. On occasions like this one, she is an extraordinary partner, always at the ready to help the singer with tempi, using rubato with flexibility, and lifting and breathing with the singer—all while handling extraordinarily difficult writing for the piano.
102 seasons later, the Matinee Musicale Club of Cincinnati continues to nurture the careers of up-and-coming artists in the art of the solo recital. The current members should be given a standing ovation all their own.
Rafael de Acha