When pianist Julius Drake released the keys of the final chord at last Thursday night’s recital with Gerald Finley, there was a deafening silence. Not because the audience was displeased with what they had just heard, not because they were too cold to move their hands, and, indeed, not because they were incapable. They were rendered mute because of the magnitude of the performance that had just ended. An hour and a half of intermissionless, unrelenting and unbroken drama, the scope of which had yet to sink into our brains even after both voices floated away into the nothingness.
Gerald Finley had just performed Franz Schubert’s Der Winterreise at Zankel Hall. Before the concert, he came to the stage to make a few general remarks of gratitude that we had made our own "winter journeys" to brave the storm that had befallen this reluctant city. And he paid his respects to Con Edison, without whose help the concert hall would have been in total darkness as it was just three hours before the concert was slated to begin. Mr. Finley also quipped that the brand of water he was drinking just before the concert was called Blizzard. A bit of foreshadowing, perhaps?
This winter journey took us through the gambit of human emotion performed by two supremly talented artists. Mr. Finley displayed a rock sold sound and brilliant interpretation of the text throughout. He was able to create very intimate moments in “Der Lindenbaum,” and then rock the house with his searing dramatic inflection in “Die Krähe,” especially on the ending phrase, “O crow, let me at last see faithfulness unto death!”
A time or two he would lead into a phrase with a spring-board of straight tone, then turn it into vibrato which was slightly distracting, it was small hiccup in what was otherwise a flawless performance.
The evening was a relentless ebb and flow of back-and-forth emotion from the text coupled with the music, expounded upon by the majesty of Mr. Finley’s singing and Mr. Drake’s superb musicianship. There is little wonder they held on as long as they could at the end to the very last heartbeat-moment of silence, trying to grab hold of the ephemeral. Which, of course, was met with thunderous applause as Mr. Finley held his head low like a Shakespearian actor bowing to the Bard.
Yet there was no encore. We were left to deal with the raw emotion of what we had just witnessed without a preverbal kleenex to wipe the slate clean–to regroup, as it were. Brilliant is the only word one can use to describe their portrayal. Absolutely brilliant.
For more information about Carnegie Hall, click here.
For more information about Gerald Finley, click here.
For more information about Julius Drake, click here.