The Art of Song is Alive and Well in Cincinnati. Daniel Weeks and Donna Loewy proved that to be true as they made musical magic happen on the stage of CCM’s Werner Recital Hall last night. The two artists did this not through sleight of hand but through musicality, technique and artistry. It was a recital that uncompromisingly avoided well-worn repertory choices and tidy groupings in chronological patterns. And, at the end it was a theatrical event that broke free of the formality of the concert platform.
The evening opened with Drei Lieder aus Wilhelm Tell – three songs by Franz Liszt, with Schiller texts from William Tell. The words for these songs, culled by the playwright-poet from his epic play about the Swiss struggle for Independence, deal with the bucolic rather than the dramatic. That said, there is vivid drama in the way Liszt’s music depicts first a gentle shepherd boy’s tale, then a young man’s journey from town to countryside, and lastly an account of a mature man in awe of nature high in the Alps.
As can be expected, Liszt’s pianistic writing is daunting, and Ms. Loewy handled the accompaniments with impassioned abandon. The texts are set in a consistently high tessitura for the voice that Weeks rode with ease, displaying a vibrant lyric tenor sound and utter comfort with the German language.
Ich möchte hingehn, another rarity was given a stand-alone position rather than appended to the Liszt group. A somber meditation on Death that approaches the scope of an operatic soliloquy, it was given an intensely moving performance by Weeks, with Ms. Loewy ever the sensitively supportive partner remarkably handling the frequent colla voce instances and the many tempo changes in the musically complex song.
From the dark hues of the Middle-European Romanticism of Liszt, the artists moved to the sunny songs of Antón Garcia Abril. The octogenarian Spanish composer writes in a lush tonal idiom that, along with a frequent use of Moorish-Aragonese musical filigree places him in the company of Turina, Granados, de Falla and Rodrigo. The texts of Canciones de Noche y Estrellas (Songs of Night and the Stars) and Canciones del Recuerdo (Songs of Remembrance) are set by the composer in a vocally-friendly manner, and Daniel Weeks sang them in flawless Spanish and with plenty of Iberian flair, while Ms. Loewy provided sensitive partnering throughout.
The Land of Nod is the title of a four-song cycle by Tom Cipullo, with surrealist texts about dreams and nightmares by the late American poet Alice Wirth Gray. The first of the songs, The Land of Nod sustains a wistful, yearning, pensive tone. A Death in the Family abruptly courts dissonance and moments of declamation. Deer in Mist and Almonds returns to near-stasis and a meditation on loss. On a Nineteenth Century Color Lithograph of Red Riding Hood by the Artist J. H. is a comic tour de force for both singer and pianist. It brought the evening to a theatrically humorous ending that allowed Ms. Loewy plenty of soloist fun and Weeks to show the audience the accomplished singing actor he is.
It was a memorable song recital by two great artists and it reminded us of what a treasure we have in the teaching-performing faculty of CCM.
Rafael de Acha