Young Singers Offer Lovesong Waltzes and Other Treats

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Purcell, Schumann, Britten, Liszt, Schubert, Grieg, Obradors, and Brahms: Hyesang Park (soprano), Sara Couden (contralto), Miles Mykkanen (tenor), Yunpeng Wang (baritone) Cecile Licad and Ken Noda (piano), Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, 17.5.2016. (BJ)

Purcell: Music for a While; Sweeter than Roses
Schumann: Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart, Op. 135
Britten: On This Island, Op. 11
Liszt: from Tre Sonetti del Petrarca: Pace non trovo; I vidi in terra
Schubert: Schwestergruss, D. 762; Gruppe aus dem Tartarus, D. 583
Grieg: from Seks Sange, Op. 25: En svane; from Seks Sange, Op. 48: En drøm
Obradors: from Cancionas Clásicas Españolas: La mi sola, Laureola; Con amores, la mi madre; Al amor; Del cabello más sutil; El vito
Brahms: Liebeslieder Walzer, Op. 52

What with some foreign-sounding English diction from the soprano in Purcell and some un-Germanic “r”s from the contralto in Schumann, it was only with tenor Miles Mykkanen’s arresting and thoroughly idiomatic account of Britten’s early Auden cycle, On This Island, that this fascinating Philadelphia Chamber Music Society program began to take on real authority. Baritone Yunpeng Wang followed this with an equally impressive performance of the first of Liszt’s three Petrarch settings. And after intermission, happily to relate, all four of these singers from the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and the Juilliard School’s Ellen and James S. Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts showed themselves to possess genuinely stellar potential.

Sara Couden’s opulent contralto was heard to formidably dramatic—at times positively spine-chilling—effect in Schubert’s Schwestergruss and Gruppe aus dem Tartarus. She still needs to work on those “r”s, but the general effect of her Schubert was far closer to the feel of the language than her Schumann had been. Hyesang Park, similarly, was much more at home with Obradors’s Spanish songs. In Purcell, her voice had been alluring in the soft passages but tended to explode rather violently when pushed to a mezzo-forte dynamic and beyond; now, in these lightly romantic ditties, she was fully in control throughout the dynamic spectrum, and the result was consistently charming.

Mykkanen and Wang again showed their quality respectively in a pair of Grieg songs and in Liszt’s third Petrarch sonnet. And with the excellent Cecile Licad and Ken Noda now joining forces—who had up to this point made separate contributions at the keyboard—everyone came together in a rousing account of the evening’s major work, the first set of Brahms’s alternately lyrical and ribald Liebeslieder Walzer. It must be accounted luxury indeed to have had the opportunity to hear these delightful songs splendidly performed twice in a season; Eric Owens and a group from the Curtis Institute offered it in the same hall exactly four months ago, and both performances were a treat for ears, mind, and spirit.

Bernard Jacobson


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