Deborah Voigt appeared with Brian Zeger at Koerner Hall last night. I guess I was expecting something rather more ebullient from Ms. Voigt but what we got was a perfectly decent, slightly low key, recital with a heavy emphasis on American repertoire and very little banter, though she did unwind a bit toward the end of the program.
She kicked off with Amy Beach’s Three Browning Songs. I’m not much of a Browning fan and I’d never heard of Amy Beach and these rather mushy, sentimental pieces didn’t raise either in my estimation. Two excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s Seven Romances were better. These were much more interesting and dramatic with a compelling piano part. Nicely played and sung too. Better still were four Strauss songs; Ich trage meine Minne, Schlechtes Wetter, Lob des Leidens and (inevitably!) Zueignung. Ms. Voigt’s diction and phrasing were exemplary and she didn’t overdo it; always a bit of a pitfall with Strauss, especially the last one. Nice work from Mr. Zeger too, especially the cool piano line in Schlechtes Wetter.
The second half was all more or less contemporary American with four rather good songs by Ben Moore including a very pointed setting of Herrick’s To the Virgins to Make Much of Time. Two numbers from Bolcom’s Cabaret Songs followed; At the Last Lousy Moments of Love and Toothbrush Time. These were the best yet. Ms. Voigt was very funny but managed to maintain a very pure tone quality even here on the edge of cabaret territory. The printed part of the recital closed out with a bunch of Bernstein including a really good account of the somewhat disturbing (and rather atypical) So Pretty. And then of course there were encores but, as usual, I don’t remember what. All in all it was a well chosen and well performed, if rather short, program.
There’s something to be said, I think, in recitals to singers “sticking close to home”. The standard song rep has its place of course and I want my Strauss and Schubert as much as the next person but so often the real life of the evening seems to come when a singer is in his/her comfort zone; whether that’s Bryn Terfel with Welsh folk songs, Jamie Barton with spirituals or Deb Voigt on Broadway. Certainly that’s how it felt last night.