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Subject: Piotr Beczala/Martin Katz Carnegie Hall Last Night
From: "G. Paul Padillo" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:G. Paul Padillo
Date:Thu, 1 Mar 2018 13:14:48 -0500
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I made the decision to forgo Semiramide at the Met for a recital I hadn't planned on 
attending.  A decision that was unknowingly wise for, a truly thrilling, moving and lovely 
evening of singing and piano playing occurred last night in Carnegie Hall.  The recital had 
been announced, long ago, as "Sold Out," and indeed, the sidewalk was bustling with 
people holding up signs asking "Need 1 Ticket!"  Oddly, when the recital began, there were 
almost entire rows of empty seats.  My row had only 3 people, me on one end and two at 
the opposite.  

Beczala selected fascinating and unusual recital for a star, no long evening of cycles, and 
few "standard recital pieces."  The recital consisted of an all Italian first half, and and all 
Polish second.  He began with four songs by Stefano Donaudy that showed him to be in 
stunning voice.  I didn't recognize all of the songs by title, but when he sang them, I had 
several "aha!" moments.  He ended the set with one I knew from an Arlene Auger album, 
"O del mio amaato ben," and it was positively exquisite.  

Next up; a quartet of songs by Wolf-Ferrari that were sung just as beautifully, even if in his 
voice they didn't sound particularly Italianate.  The songs were wonderfully varied, with 
one, "E tanto c'e' pericol ch'io ti lasci," whose beginning and repeated theme sound nearly 
identical to the beginning of "America the Beautiful."  It was here we first got to hear 
Beczala pump out volume that was nearly deafening.  One doesn't typically think of this 
"sized" voice as "loud, but loud it was!

Six songs of Respighi followed and they need to be much, much better known than they 
sadly are.  

The first half finished with a trio of songs by Tosti that could not have been more fitting, and 
allowed the tenor to "show off" again, his marvelous technique, thrilling top and his 
delicious manner of playing to the audience.  Delightful.

Following intermission came the more serious matter of the songs of his native land.  In 
reading the texts I could barely suppress a gale of laughter; the first half had been 
comprised of almost all "beautiful days of love . . . perfumed meadows forever in flower .  . 
kisses, and breezes," and the Polish half began with "wilderness, naked and yellowed, drags 
its groaning wings over they grey moss . . . your lips are cold . . . what sorrow, 
unfathomable, unbounded!"  

Never mind the mood swing, the first set was Six Songs, Op. 2 of Karol Szymanowski, and 
Beczala sang them, as he did everything, nearly perfectly, with an added, palpable sense of 
pride.  

Seven songs of Mieczyslaw Karlowicz followed this, and while less serious in most ways than 
the previous set, they were more in a traditional "lieder" format even though Karlowicz was 
only five years older than Szymanowski.  Beczala once again lavished great artistry and 
poured out both volume and passion throughout.  The last of these could have been a 
deleted aria for Lensky out of Tchaikovsky's "Onegin" - I can't imagine this not showing up 
on more tenor recitals, Polish natives or not.  Stunning music.

Four songs of Stanislaw Moniuszko wrapped up the recital.  All more lighthearted with an 
almost, the second an energetic almost "drinking song" quality where I had to fight the urge 
to clap in rhythm and shout "Hey!" at points that almost seem to call out for them.  Beczala 
spit out the words with energy and crispness that pointed up the song's fun nature.  

Martin Katz remains the consummate accompanist, and, in particular, the Polish composers 
provided him with a thorough workout, most of the songs having long preludes and/or 
postludes that called for virtuosity and technique to spare.  Katz never faltered (has he 
ever?) and was engaged as thoroughly as his singer.  This was true chamber music making. 
 Throughout the recital the strong rapport between these two masterful musicians who've 
worked together a number of times was made evident at the end of each set, Beczala 
clasping Katz's hand as the two walked off together, like a beloved uncle and nephew.  It 
was touching to see.  

Following the predictable ovation, came several encores, all in Polish, the tenor introducing 
them, like the first, "a favorite of mine, I hope you like."  Like we did.  After being called 
back several more times, Beczala ended with the most familiar encore of all time:  Strauss' 
"Zueignung."  

As we all finally took our leave, one could easily have called Carnegie Hall "The Land of 
Smiles," for that's all anyone could see.

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