Monday, May 4, 2009

Sahsa Cooke's Moving Recital

It isn't often a performance moves me, but it happened during mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke's recent appearance with the Orchestra Of St. Luke's at Alice Tully Hall. The occasion was The Irene Diamond Concert, an annual benefit for Young Concert Artists. Ms. Cooke was one of three honorees. Her smooth, powerful voice was the perfect instrument for four of the six melodies in Hector Berlioz's Les nuits d'ete, Op.7.

The tonal perfection of Ms. Cooke's voice didn't surprise me since I've heard her before. The range of emotion she achieved was truly remarkable, however. The first piece, Villanelle, was brimful of happiness. In the second, Le spectre de la rose, she dominated the orchestra despite the softness of her voice. L'ile inconnu, the fourth selection, was a tonal conversation perfectly delivered. It was in the third piece, Sur les lagunes, however, where Ms. Cooke achieved a depth of sadness that needed no translation. Vivien Schweitzer's NY Times review the next day said tears were on Ms. Cooke's face and I can believe it, having felt them swell up in my eyes as well.

Opening the program that evening was harpist Emmanuel Ceysoon, who performed Reinhold Gliere's Concerto. Op. 74. The piece is a series of variations on a theme, but this interpretation made them all of one continuum, which was quite pleasing.

Pianist Jean-Frederic Neuburger closed the program with Camille Saint-Saens Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22. He successfully balanced the many different themes in the work--some capricious, some thundering--with technical and dynamic proficiency.

The Young Concert Artists is a nonprofit organization that has promoted musicians like Emanuel Ax and Murray Perahia. Unfortunately, director Susan Wadsworth said that evening that this will be the last concert in the series until economic conditions change and the donations which make it possible pick up again.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

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