Saturday, September 11, 2010

Music for a While

Gentle readers, a narrative of serendipity: on Tuesday, while browsing Kinderkuchen for the FBI (a blog worth investigating not only for its magnificent name, but also for its eclectic content) I chanced across a notice in the blogroll: Jesse Blumberg performs in NYC.  I followed, of course, this scent, and Barihunks (!) informed me that the program would be one of British song.  It remained but to inform my visiting friend, a singer, who exclaimed that this was among her favorite repertory... and we were off to the piano dealership (where we coveted things!) where the recital was to be held.

The personable Mr. Blumberg informed his audience that this was the first time, and hopefully the first of many, that he and pianist Erika Switzer would be performing the recital, and our indulgence for occasional referrals to a music stand was therefore begged.  The program was organized into three sets--a Shakespeare set, a "Young Love" set, and a "Day and Night" set--with Britten arrangements as "palate cleansers" between them.  While I was familiar with most of the texts, much of the music was relatively unfamiliar to me, and some pieces entirely unknown. Mr. Blumberg stated at the outset that the pieces were infrequently heard (especially together,) because of a contemporary sensibility which shies away from their lush romanticism, a romanticism which should require no apology.  I felt that, did I own a lace-edged handkerchief, it would have been suitable to wave it in a gesture of support for Unapologetic Romanticism.

Maybe it was partially due to being in a state of live music withdrawal, but after Mr. Blumberg's opening of "Music for a While" (Purcell, arr. Britten) I was convinced that every baritone recital ever could be satisfactorily opened with this.  (The gorgeous Dryden text may be found here.)  I found this to be one of the loveliest pieces of the evening; other favorites included "Come away, come away, Death" (Quilter/Shakespeare), "To Lizbie Browne" (Finzi/Hardy), and "Silent Noon" (Vaughan Williams/Rossetti.)  So much unapologetic romanticism!  My singer friend worried that Mr. Blumberg tended to sing on the breath; I didn't notice.  We both enjoyed the evening, and I'd gladly hear more of him: he has a tone which I found warm and pleasant, and a manner which was also warm and pleasant (nice for recitals.)  Apparently Mr. Blumberg is also a co-founder of the Five Boroughs Music Festival (I was a beneficiary of this "Classical music for all of NYC, dang it!" initiative in the autumn of '08, with New York Polyphony.)  If any of you, gentle readers, are in the New York area and interested, they will be giving a free concert in Bryant Park this Tuesday; although he is not at the center of the evening, last Tuesday's audience was informed that he will be singing.

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