Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Omni Trio Cycles

An Die Musik is one of Baltimore's hidden artistic jewels.  Quietly hovering above Charles Street, the second-floor recital hall looks more like a salon out of the court of Louis XV.  Each patron gets his or her nicely rounded armchair.  The elegant stage supports a chaste piano and a small number of chamber musicians.  The back wall features a gently arched sounding bell to amplify the music.

On Sunday night, the Omni Trio presented a superb rectial of art songs by Francis Poulenc and Benjamin Britten.  Composed of mezzo-soprano Loralee Songer, soprano Danya Katok, and pianist Dylan Perez, the new formation specializes in the performance of contemporary vocal compositions.  In reviving some of the more obscure works of Poulenc and Britten, they did not disappoint.

The highlight of the evening were song cycles by the two composers.  With a powerful soprano voice and admirably clear diction, Katok delivered a textured interpretation of Poulenc's cycle of poems by Louise Lalanne (the psudonymn for Apollinaire).  The mood shifted from melancholy to determination to puzzlement as the soprano followed the cycle's temporal shift from the past to the present.  Songer provided a touching interpretation of Britten's cycle Ballad Songs.  She delivered the witty "Tell me the truth about love" with ebullience.  The sad, ballad-like "Johnny" expressed the mealncholy of the love lost and abandoned.  While powerful, the mezzo-soprano's voice clearly has some problems of control at the top of her vocal range.

Perez provided ardent and competent musical accompaniment throughout the progam as well as offering some brief, informal introductions to these poorly-known works.

One reservation: In several of the song cycles, the singers attempted to turn the songs into dramatic vignettes.  At one point, a scarf mysteriously appeared, then sunglasses; shortly afterward, the sunglasses disappeared, then the scarf unraveled.  The attempted drama stuck this listener as precious, an unnecessary distraction from works which carry their own aesthetic punch through the unusual literary quality of the texts as well as the varied musical genres woven into their scores.


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