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A Rare Afternoon of Transcendence in New York

New York
Carnegie Hall
03/19/2017 -  
Johannes Brahms: “Liebestreu,” Op. 3, No. 1 – “Liebe und Frühling II,” Op. 3, No. 3 – “Geheimnis,” Op. 71, No. 3 – “Wir wandelten,” Op. 96, No. 2 – “O liebliche Wangen,” Op. 47, No. 4 – “Sapphische Ode,” Op. 94, No. 4 – “Ruhe, Süssliebchen,” Op. 33, No. 9 – “O wüsst ich doch den Weg zurück,” Op. 63, No. 8 – “Alte Liebe,” Op. 72, No. 1 – “Mädchenlied” (“Auf die Nacht in der Spinnstuben”), Op. 107, No. 5 – “Die Mainacht,” Op. 43, No. 2 – “Es träumte mir, ich sei dir teuer,” Op. 57, No. 3 – “Verzagen,” Op. 72, No. 4 – “Von ewiger Liebe,” Op. 43, No. 1
Henri Duparc: Au pays où se fait la guerre – Extase – Phidylé
Sergei Rachmaninoff: “Oh no, I beg you, do not leave,” Op. 4, No. 1 – “I Have Grown Fond of Sorrow,” Op. 8, No. 4 – “Twilight,” Op. 21, No. 3 – “The Answer,” Op. 21, No. 4 – “I Wait for Thee,” Op. 14, No. 1 – “Lilacs,” Op. 21, No. 5 – “Night Is Mournful,” Op. 26, No. 12 – “Sing not to me, beautiful maiden,” Op. 4, No. 4

Elīna Garanca (mezzo-soprano), Kevin Murphy (piano)

E. Garanca (© Harald Hoffmann)

Extase (Ecstasy) is not only the title of one of the troubled French composer Henri Duparc’s better known songs, but also the correct emotion to describe the thrilling Latvian mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanca’s absolutely sublime solo recital at Carnegie Hall. Well paired with the pianist Kevin Murphy, himself of virtuoso stature, this concert is certainly the best of the season and arguably one of the very best in New York’s living memory.

Garanca sang with cool Nordic tones yet preserved an engaging and even playful delivery throughout the first half of the concert, a collection of fourteen Lieder by Johannes Brahms. The “Sapphische Ode” captured her burnished mezzo voice at its very best, though “O liebliche Wangen” displayed a virtuoso technique that bordered on patter in its pure joy. “Verzagen” stood as a moving moment of despair.

The selection of Rachmaninoff songs dwelled on a few favorites. Of these, “Lilacs” and “Sing not to me, beautiful maiden” were the most engaging. Some of the others reflected a coolness that a Russian singer would probably not indulge in. But benefiting from Garanca’s refined technique and masterful control, they were sublime nevertheless.

Duparc’s songs lie arguably the farthest outside Garanca’s repertoire. Yet these were the most emphatic and most stirring, almost drawing the reviewer to the brink of tears. Extase highlighted these gems with color, but it was really in Phidylé that one got the most vivid impressions. The grass and moss of the song’s lyrics came alive as Garanca managed to invite the listener to meet her easily half way, in an outstanding impression of nature and shared passion.

The three encores – another Brahms song, a Schumann work, and a composition by a Latvian composer – ended a brilliant afternoon.

New York will have a further chance to celebrate Garanca this season. She will appear in April-May as Octavian in the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. The occasion should not be missed.

Paul du Quenoy



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