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All of these were artistic choices and all were easily defensible. But it is not hard to imagine the three pieces played more idiomatically, with more made of the off-the-beat entrances of Haydn's melodic lines and sharper edges in his concluding minuet, and much more piano presence in the Dvorak to give color and life to the sedate-sounding second-movement dance. This might have made for an evening of more spark and excitement.
-- Joan Reinthaler
The sleek-looking Nathan Gunn is held up in the opera world as a singer who can take on a male role and actually appear manly. In a fine recital at the Barns at Wolf Trap on Friday evening, the American baritone showed there is a capable and understanding artist beneath this polished exterior.
Gunn gave a conscientious yet ardent account of Franz Schubert's dramatic song cycle "Die Schone Mullerin" ("The Beautiful Maid of the Mill"), which traces a story of unrequited and ultimately tragic love.
Gunn possesses an agile and concentrated voice, which allowed him to play it cool in the opening songs that introduce the romantic wanderings of a miller. In "Where to?" and "Thanksgiving to the Brook," Gunn's articulate, no-frills delivery put the fervent poems of Wilhelm Muller and Schubert's lyrical music line in high relief. Gunn smartly injected greater weight or color as necessary in the lovely "Morning Greeting" and the more yearning "Impatience."
Yet the best moments came when the story pivoted from love to betrayal. Here, Gunn negotiated greater extremes within the music, using more flexible tempos and dynamics to enrich the music's detail. Fire shot through the jealousy-laden "Huntsman," while "The Beloved Color" was the picture of sad resignation. Gunn's rich, melancholic sound flowed beautifully over the somber piano passages of Kim Pensinger Witman, who provided Gunn with clear, supportive accompaniment.
-- Daniel Ginsberg