Mezzo-Soprano Stotijn Earns Mostly High Marks

By Tim Page
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Christianne Stotijn puts her deep, attractive mezzo-soprano to the service of a sure and sensitive musicianship. Her Sunday night recital at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, presented by the Vocal Arts Society, had much to recommend it.

A selection of songs from Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" -- mystical meditations shot through with emotional urgency -- represented Stotijn at her best. "Urlicht," best known for its later incorporation into Mahler's Symphony No. 2 ("Resurrection"), was particularly fine: Stotijn managed to reconcile the song's wide-eyed, childlike sense of wonder with its paradoxical world-weariness, and her lower register is especially luscious.

I was less happy with her rendition of Schubert's "Erlkonig," which seemed strangely unformed and under-characterized. But her renditions of more purely lyrical Schubert selections -- "Auf dem Wasser zu Singen" and "Du bist die Ruh," for example -- were exemplary, neat matings of melody and meaning.

Charles Ives was represented by two early, unusually tidy settings of German poetry -- "Feldeinsamkeit" and "Ich grolle nicht" -- which were more interesting than the familiar "Memories" and "The Circus Band" that rounded out the set. It is always a courtesy when a visiting artist brings American music to town, but I do think we have richer works to offer than these over-celebrated pastiches.

The evening closed with five songs by Richard Strauss, sung with requisite nuance yet never devolving into fussiness. One had the sense, rare in Strauss performances, that Stotijn trusted the composer's tunes and felt no need to bury them in extraneous subtleties. Pianist Joseph Breinl -- alert, responsive and good-humored -- was a full partner in the evening's success.

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