New York City had a little taste of Bean Town last Wednesday evening, as the Boston Symphony Orchestra played Carnegie Hall in a program devoted entirely to Maurice Ravel with American mezzo soprano Susan Graham, and the Tangelwood Festival Chorus.
The thrillingly lush sound of this world-class orchestra was evident from the downbeat as world-renowned conductor Bernard Haitink lead his musicians with exuberance and flair. Ravel’s Alborada del gracioso began what turned out to be a delightful evening of French music.
Equally as thrilling and delighting was Ms. Graham who sang Ravel’s Shéhérazade, with as much clarity of tone as I have ever heard her sing. Her usual sensual huskiness was replaced by a crystal clear sound that one does not often hear from her. And it was not that long ago that she was singing in the same language on the very same stage.
Her finest work came during first poem “Asie” in the very first line she sings in an almost pleading manor, repeating the title relentlessly. Then again as she finished the phrase “Je voundrais voir mourir damour ou bien de haine” wherein the last word soared into a stratospheric high note that effortlessly rang out over the audience. These three poems seemed to fit perfectly into her vocal and emotional range. Equally at home in any language, in French, though, she is c’est magnifique!
Ms. Graham will return to the New York stage later this month at the Met (who recently announced their 2014/15 season) in their revival of The Enchanted Island. She will be singing the role of Sycorax which was originated by another superstar mezzo, Joyce DiDonato, two years ago.
The evening ended with Ravel’s choral setting of his most famous dance work Daphnis et Chloé. The Tanglewood Festival Chorus was able to express a surprising level of superlativeness merely with the words, “oh” and “ah.” Not an easy task, but performed beautifully, with an equally excellent orchestra in front of them.
For more information about Carnegie Hall, click here.
For more information about Susan Graham, click here.
For more information about the Boston Symphony, click here.