Tale of two singers--one careful, the other exuberant.
Thursday, March 15, 2001
An obvious explanation goes to the programming itself. With only one composer, Goodson took on a tougher challenge, that of limning more variety from a narrower stylistic source. While both men bring substantial operatic experience to their art, Leerhuber has made more capital from it. Where Goodson was careful, Leerhuber was exuberant.
There are those who will tell you that no singer should take on a program of Brahms lieder before the age of 40. Goodson, now claiming his award concert after winning last year''s Carmel Music Society vocal competition, rose to the expressive occasion in about half of the 15 songs. Ironically, he etched less personality through his otherwise impressive vocal equipment than his wife, Laura Dahl, did through her piano accompaniment. (Illuminating the unfamiliar storyline, James Schwabacher''s narration filled in the gaps.)
Leerhuber (who returns this weekend to sing with the Monterey Symphony) revealed his own inconsistencies. Engaging enough for his stage presence, he was noticeably more successful with some material than others. After starting with Haydn, he finally settled into an expressive pace in Mozart''s Abendempfindung, only to stiffen up for Schubert''s nearly erotic Standchen. Songs by Mendelssohn, Gounod, Debussy, Liszt and Griffes got his best, while other Mozart pieces were hammy, and the supernatural mystique of Schubert''s Erlkonig was rolled over by the relentless pace of piano accompanist Daniel Lockert. Leerhuber worked the charms of Cole Porter''s Night and Day as his single encore.
Ay! Chihuahua! Venturing bravely into a program of Hispanic composers at Carmel Mission, the Camerata Singers immediately became gringos once they got past the opening antiphonal Latin motet by Victoria. It never ceases to amaze me at how inept Anglo Californians are with the Spanish language given the size and pervasion of Spanish and Mexican culture throughout the Southwest.
Of course, the Camerata deserve a measure of gratitude for making an effort to celebrate that culture, not least in reviving the mass and hymns sung in the California missions in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The University of California''s John Biggs edited the mostly artless materials into a cappella and orchestral choral settings.
Without any serious attempt at inflecting the Spanish words, John Koza''s chorus ran a gauntlet of arrangements and originals by Hispanic and Anglo composers of the Americas (including La Indita, a Chumash "wail" arranged for Camerata by Dale Victorine). The driving pulse of Brazilian Ernani Aguiar''s Laudate Dominum polished up the tentative edges heard in the mission music.
A couple of Anglo-sounding settings led to Duerme by the Mexican Ramon Noble, a work that really wanted to sound Mexican. Erase una nina, as arranged by Lanham Deal, might have come from a Hollywood singing-cowboy movie.
Williams Faulkner''s Jalisco harp restored some authentic spice to the next two items, leading up to Argentine folk-composer Ariel Ramirez'' Misa Criolla. Unfortunately, tenor soloist Pedro Ledesma modeled his interpretation after the laughably operatic recording by Jose Carreras instead of the raw vitality heard on the original Philips LP released in the 1960s. What saves this slight and poorly composed piece is its infectious rhythms and primitive faith.
Camerata won approval from the audience for its performance, but the group would have come closer to the truth by having memorized the words and music rather than reading them. The instrumental band came through well enough, though the harpsichord called for by the composer was missed.