Soprano Joanne Robinson and Pianist Rachel Ruth Crumbly
On a warm summer evening almost one hundred people gathered to hear
a program of art song entitled Mélodies Francaises by soprano and piano at Second Presbyterian
Church in Norfolk. The size of the audience indicated the talent and charisma of these
young performers. The program was being recorded and we were requested to applaud only at the
end of each set. We were off to a good start!
The first half contained two sets of songs, one by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) and
another by Franz Liszt (1811-1886). I later characterized this part of the program as
"French art song with a German flair." The mostly novice art song audience was obviously enthralled
by the exuberance and glamour of the performers, and well they should be; Ms. Robinson has a
strong and beautiful voice, well matched to the power and precision of Ms. Crumbly's playing. The
treatment of this material worked best for the Liszt songs which were greatly influenced by
German lied. The forthright delivery of Oh! Quand je dors did not quite capture the mystery
inherent in the text. Enfant, si j'étais roi and S'il est un
charmant gazon and Comment, disaient-ils were performed with a serious intensity. The
singer's facial expression indicated a clear understanding of the humor.
Two songs by Fauré, Aurore and Chanson d'amour
were unfamiliar but Fleur jetée was done just right with a strong attack throughout
the song by voice and piano. Le Secret is a song with an achingly beautiful melody and
Notre amour is all about the intensity of true love.
Six songs by Debussy (1862-1918) were offered after the intermission. These pieces
were performed with seriousness and intensity, but the vocal tones were always beautiful
and sometimes breathtaking in their clarity, delivered with great confidence.
The program concluded with three songs by Erik Satie (1866-1925): La Statue de Bronze,
Je te veux and La Diva de "L'Empire." Our performers
were more at home in this repertoire and an encore from musical theatre rounded
out the evening.
The reception was well attended and it was apparent that the audience had
enjoyed this beautiful, irrepressible singer and her versatile accompanist.
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