BWW Reviews: Susan Graham in Recital with Philadelphia Chamber Music Society
No one likes cancellations, especially performers. Luckily, when both mezzo-soprano Susan Graham and pianist Bradley Moore were ill and had to cancel their April 2nd recital in Philadelphia, they were able to reschedule within just a few weeks. Considering both Graham and Moore have quite busy calendars, it's tremendous that the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society was able to reschedule a performance with them so quickly.
Thursday, Graham and Moore offered an excellent performance in the Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center. Their program included repertoire spanning from the seventeenth century to works by living composers. Though I heard Graham present nearly the exact same program two years ago at Carnegie Hall, she is one of the few artists who I would hear sing the same programs over, and over, and over, and over. Graham always impresses with her plush tone, sensitive musicianship, and dramatic honesty. And, since the Perleman Theater is a much more intimate venue, I was able to appreciate her artistry even more in her concert with the PCMS.
The concert began with a lovely rendition of Purcell's "Tell me, some pitying angel." Though topically sacred, this piece is operatically dramatic, and follows in the tradition of great solo scenes composed by Monteverdi and Cavalli that Purcell emulated. Hearing Graham perform this music is an absolute treat, as she emphasizes certain lyrical qualities that even specialists in seventeenth century repertoire often overlook.
Berlioz's haunting La mort d'Ophélie followed, and Graham certainly did not disappoint with her interpretation. I was very impressed with Moore's accompaniment, as well. There are several moments when the pianist must play the legato themes in vocal line, both with and without the singer. I am often surprised when I hear pianists who do not exactly match the way the singer performs these phrases, merely reading along without truly listening. But, Moore is clearly a keyboardist who is passionate about the human voice and who is able to make the keyboard sing.
The first half of the program ended with a theme set of lieder all inspired by the character Mignon from Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. One of the most popular literary works of the 19th century, this novel inspired countless songs. Graham selected six pieces by Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Duparc, and Wolf. I must confess - this repertoire is not necessarily my favorite. Still, I enjoyed Graham's frank delivery of these songs. Her performance of Tchaikovsky's "Nyet tolka tot kto znal," Op. 6, No. 6, was particularly fine. Though brief, this piece is one of the more dramatic in the Mignon set that Graham curated for her recital.