Having seen baritone Christopher Maltman's violent portrayal of Achilles in Handel's Giulio Cesare on DVD (Google it yourself), I'd been looking forward to his recital at Ravinia with Roger Vignoles for awhile. He stepped out and delivered a brazen "Beltazar," Schumann's Heine setting of the Biblical scene which gave us the saying, "the writing on the wall." With a wide range of colors and dynamics that dwindled down to a sanft und selig pianissimo, he seemed to be in fine form. His broad tonal palette and ability switch from virility to calm from verse to verse carried through in Dichterliebe, but his high notes didn't quite ping. At the end, he grabbed his throat with a grin, and took his bows.
After intermission, he and Vignoles came out and Maltman explained that while he was indeed "here," half of his voice "was still on the other side of the Atlantic." All he had was roughly a mezzo voce which he couldn't push very hard or sing very loudly with, so he was cutting back the recital's second half. Gone were a Purcell selection and one of Debussy's Villon Ballades, but he did stick with four of Britten's Folksongs, Hahn's "A Chloris," and tossed in an bit of English music-hall fun from the duo Flanders and Swann entitled "Madeira, M'Dear."
I personally think that we need more songs about dirty old men and obliging young women (at least at evening's beginning) from our recital stages. All that Schumann/Schubert pining for the distant beloved who turns out to be dead or at any rate uncaring doesn't really represent the age in which we live, now, does it? Give me music I can cackle along with, any day. (NB: I ran the picture above in this week's issue of Time Out Chicago with the caption "TOUGH GUY? Baritone Christopher Maltman will need all the self-assurance he can get for his Frenchy recital at Ravinia." When I wrote it, I was coming from the perspective that he and his voice would be totally fine. I meant it in jest, honest.)
Warp Works & Twentieth Century Masters London Sinfonietta (Warp)
Streams of Expression Joe Lovano (Blue Note)
Joyce DiDonato Joyce DiDonato and Julius Drake (Faure, Hahn and Michael Head) (Wigmore Hall Live)
Live from the Lugano Festival 2005 Martha Argerich and friends (EMI)
The Carnegie Hall Concert Keith Jarrett (ECM)
Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, Paul Motian (Nonesuch)
The Eleventh Finger Jenny Lin (Koch)