Beczala Shines at Carnegie Hall
Robert Schumann: Dichterliebe, Op. 48
Mieczyslaw Karlowicz: Selected Polish Songs
Antonin Dvorák: Gypsy Songs, Op. 55
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Selected Russian Songs
Piotr Beczala (tenor), Martin Katz (piano)
P. Beczala (© Anja Frers)
As one of the two or three most exciting tenors before the public today, the Polish powerhouse Piotr Beczala’s appearance in a solo recital is an event both rare and stimulating. In the intimate environs of Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, the voice held a delicate resonance for an appealingly small audience of devoted fans. Martin Katz’s expert accompaniment furnished a superb platform on which the voice thrived.
This recital showed off Beczala’s versatility to the maximum degree. Including "Bless This House" as a touching encore, the tenor sang works of varying idioms in five languages. Known on the operatic stage for his signature brilliant, clarion, and often boisterous delivery, he brought verve to his entire program. There was moments in the first selection, Robert Schumann’s touching Dichterliebe, when Beczala might have sounded a bit too upbeat and even cheerful. Schumann did, after all, write the songs while in despair at his separation from his beloved Clara, whose father opposed their union. Schumann and Clara lived happily ever after, but the songs’ brittle insecurity might have needed greater introspection than Beczala brought to his interpretation.
The songs of Beczala’s countryman Mieczyslaw Karlowicz are much less well known, but their morbid character - expressed in such titles as "Disillusion" and "From Erotica" - easily equal Schumann’s cycle in demand. Beczala clearly made a point of bringing these evocative pieces to the attention of the New York public, but again the feeling of the text was more introspective than the voice might have allowed.
A more successful pairing for the voice was Dvorák’s cycle of warmer Gypsy Songs, each a tour de force of ebullient good cheer. Four soulful selections of Rachmaninoff’s songs – especially the famous "Sing Not, Maiden" and "Lilacs" – also emerged in noteworthy relief. Beczala’s excellence with both of these Slavic composers recalled his stage triumph as the Prince in the Met’s revival of Dvorák’s opera Rusalka a couple of seasons ago. The Rachmaninoff songs drew the evening’s most enthusiastic applause. Along with "Bless This House," encores from Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin and Richard Strauss’s prolific art song repertoire concluded a splendid evening. Fans should race to hear Beczala reprise the Duke in Verdi’s Rigoletto when he takes on the role again in the Met’s on-going revival this season.
Paul du Quenoy