On Tuesday, February 16th, New York Festival of Song presented a concert at Merkin Hall entitled The Voluptuous Muse which included unknown and rarely heard art songs from late-Romantic, post-Wagnerian era. Anyone from Alexander Zemlinsky (187-1942), Nicolai Medtner (1879-1951) and Joseph Marx (1882-1964) to the likes of Alban Berg (1885-1935), Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) and Hugo Wolf (1860-1903) were on display for the audience to discover and enjoy.
Strangely erotic and yet subtly sumptuous, the music didn’t necessarily thrill you or send shivers down your spine. However, there were moments that haunted you the entire evening like a ghostly shadow stalking your every footstep. This was simply a beautiful concert that was thoughtfully planned and meticulously executed with perfection.
The evening began with the “Marienlied” by Marx which was poignantly sweet. It was immediately followed by the duet “Song of Songs” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908). The latter was ritualistically sexual in a simple, understated way – setting the mood for the rest of the evening.
Joseph Kaiser joined NYFoS with a light lyric tenor voice that was beautiful when he simply sang. Yet like all tenors, there were those darn high notes which he seemed to strain ever so slightly to reach, especially in Sergei Rachmaninov’s (1873-1943) “Kakoje schast’je” which was the most passionate song of the evening and just a little over-sung. You could see him thinking about his singing technique all evening. Still, it was not hard to listen to Mr. Kaiser as he worked to convey the musical emotions through his voice rather tastefully.
Kate Lindsey, a light-voiced lyric mezzo-soprano, sang with a strange straight-tone quality to her sound – as though she had been training to become a boy soprano. She possesses a decent instrument and you catch a rare glimpse of what it could be when she forgets about the straight-tone and just opens her mouth to sing. However, she was so preoccupied with the characteristic that it affected her diction rather profusely. It also gave her an airy sound in the voice that covered up the core making her pianissimo high notes almost inaudible. It was awkward to listen to in some pieces, but eerily beautiful in others like the “Ganymed” by Hugo Wolf (which closed the first half of the concert on a rather peculiar note.