Tuesday, January 13, 2015

This Saturday at 3 PM: star tenor Matthew Polenzani and pianist Julius Drake

While in New York City at a Lincoln Center event, I found an interview by Fred Plotkin published in Playbill in which Matthew Polenzani discusses his forthcoming recital with pianist Julius Drake at Alice Tully Hall, following his Spivey Hall recital debut this Saturday, January 17, at 3 PM.  They'll perform the same program in both instances, once again illustrating the nexus between Spivey Hall and other great music venues in North America and beyond.

Mr. Polenzani, who in addition to being a star of the Metropolitan Opera is welcomed on stages around the world where musical excellence prevails, is quoted as saying, "We chose Beethoven's 'Adelaide' not just because of his sublime music, but also because I like starting out a recital with something classical in nature.  It reminds me of my vocal roots.  We recently recorded some of the Liszt songs.  Compared to his symphonic and piano repertory, his songs are relatively unknown.  He sets the words so brilliantly in the music, but I also love the virtuosity required for the piano music, which suits Julius to a T.  There is a beautiful two-way conversation going on between the words and the piano, which I find particularly satisfying."

About Samuel Barber's Hermit Songs, which close the program:  "I've sung other music that is typically associated with women singers.  These days, women are singing [Schubert's] Winterreise and [Schumann's] Dichterliebe.  Men have even sung [Schumann's] Fraueneliebe und -Leben. Strictly looking at the texts, there's only one Hermit song, 'Saint Ita's Vision,' that is clearly written from a woman's point of view.  But 'Church Bells at Night' is written from a man's point of view.  These songs suit my sensibilities as an artist, and I feel these texts resounding in my heart when I sing them."

Very promising!  Matthew Polenzani commands an exceptionally beautiful, full, expressive, lyric tenor voice, and I eagerly await his collaboration with the extraordinary British pianist Julius Drake, who to our great delight is no stranger to Spivey Hall.  In fact, it was at dinner following his marvelous Spivey Hall recital with Canadian baritone Gerald Finley that Julius told me, "A good Hamburg Steinway lets me give my most personal performance" -- which led to our several-year search for such an instrument, culminating in pianist Paul Lewis's selection of "Clara" at the Steinway & Sons factory in Hamburg.  This will be Julius' first encounter with "Clara" at Spivey Hall and I hope the two will become fast friends.

Saturday's recital -- a 3 PM matinee (not an evening performance!) -- also includes Erik Satie's Three Songs and Maurice Ravel's Five Greek Folk Songs, all providing ample opportunities for the singer and pianist to evoke different characters and colors of sound in ways that meld words and music to wonderful effect.  Spivey Hall's superb acoustics are ideal for recitals of this nature, and its intimate size (just under 400 seats) also heightens the strong sense of connection the audience feels with the artists on stage through the music. 

A great way to prepare for hearing this performance is to attend a free pre-concert talk by Clayton State University's Director of Choral Activities, Dr. Michael Fuchs, at 2:00 PM in the Music Education Building, immediately adjacent to Spivey Hall.

What's more: Posted on Spivey Hall's website under the heading "MUSIC NOTES," you can read program notes for this recital that appear in the printed program book, as well as musically enhanced program notes, embedded with .mp3s that with a simple click enable you to hear what the specific point in the written note is trying to describe.  Give a listen!

I'm deeply grateful to Mr. John Markham, the Friends of Spivey Hall Concert Sponsor of Matthew Polenzani and Julius Drake, for his generosity in making the recital possible.  A great lover of fine singing, he's also sponsoring another world-class singer's Spivey Hall debut -- that of mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, who with pianist Warren Jones will perform an engaging cabaret program (with introductions and comments from the stage) on March 21.  There's also a 6:30 PM pre-concert dinner available for the Blythe/Jones recital -- you can't beat the convenience or the price.

Good seats are available at www.spiveyhall.org (choose your own seats online) or by calling the Spivey Hall Box Office at (678) 466-4200 Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM (there's never a service charge when buying by phone if your tickets are held for you at Will Call).  Educators and students with ID get 50% off (limit two tickets per ID) and Clayton State student tickets are just $10 each with ID.


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