Two poets, two sorcerers
Schumann : “Dichterliebe"
Debussy : “Fêtes galantes"; La mer est plus belle, Le son du cor, L'echelonnement des haies
Duparc : Invitation au voyage, Le manoir de Rosemonde, Extase, Chanson triste
Enescu : Estrene à Anne, Présent de couleur blanche
Ravel : „Don Quichotte à Dulcinée”
José van Dam (bass-baritone), Maciej Pikulsky (piano)
Two poets, two sorcerers of word and sound, José van Dam and Maciej Pikulsky, brought blissfulness in the Romanian Athenaeum Hall. From the very first touch of the keyboard, from the very first verse… Im wunderschönen Monat Mai… of the Lieder cycle Dichterliebe by Schumann, the Hall was enthralled by their music and the spell was not broken before the last bar of the last piece of the… printed programme.
The velvet timbrality of van Dam’s voice is the canvas on which the artist embroiders with minution, searching the most direct communication lines to the listener’s heart, crocheting the musical thread through the meanders of the most subtle inflexions, through a mysterious clair-obscur (Fêtes galantes de Claude Debussy), whispers, enveloping.oneself, shaddows and illuminations. Great art! Life poured into soul! Poetry and painting brought together! Yes, van Dam's voice paints gorgeously and dreaming envelops the audience's space. The _expression is fluid (Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome), full of soft tones enchanting the atmosphere (Hör’sch das Liedchen klingen, Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen) with the poet's bitterness (Ich hab’im Traum geweinet) or tearful sorrow (Die alten, bösen Lieder). How evoking, lost in memories, sings the maestro ...O, Dulcinée! (Chanson romanesque from Ravel’s Don Quichotte a Dulcinée). Meantime, the murmur (pianississimo) Sur ton sein mon coeur dort from Extase by Duparc, generates applause while melting into the ethereal space. Applause which began so... pianissimo that it looked like the audience was afraid to break the magic of the moment.
Schumann, Debussy, Duparc, Ravel, Enescu as well. José van Dam wanted to rend homage to the great Romanian composer by presenting – in a personal manner which invites to reflection – two lieder from Sept chansons de Clément Marot (Estrenne a Anne and Présent de couleur blanche). In order to fully appreciate the artist’s approach to these Enescu melodies, I think that it would be suitable to listen to the entire cycle. For example, I am convinced that the dilatation of tempi is perfectly integrated in a concept which, as a whole, could be extremely convincing.
The second wonderful surprise of the evening was the Polish born pianist Maciej Pikulski, a master of the transparent touch, of the sensitivity taken to the extreme. His piano's sounds floated like lace-work, like a delicate filigrane . The discussion was discrete but so wonderfully communicative, matching note by note with the silkiness and the colours of van Dam' s voice.
The rapture seemed to be endless but... here came the encores. We had to give up our reverie simply because the Belgian bass-baritone wanted to remind us that he is an opera singer, first and foremost. His career was prodigious once (let's not forget he was the first Oedipe on CD), but is now going beyond zenith. I am writing these lines not because the selected arias (from Lakmé and... Il barbiere di Siviglia) put in evidence the actual state of his voice (a fact felt sometimes during the recital but of no importance, taking into account his mastery overall) but because the style of these arias, different from the music of the entire evening, merciless and brutally extracted us out from the magic spell. How could we forgive and forget? José van Dam must come again, together with his accompanist, in the sacred ambience of the Romanian Athenaeum, for a new lieder recital. Please, bring back the magic, Monsieur van Dam !