Frederica von Stade has a sense of dedication to the art of song that is rare today. Her recital in the Kennedy Center Saturday night was dramatic substantiation of her belief in the future of songs. The program consisted of groups of Irish and French folksongs as the extremes, with two song cycles as the means.
The choice of cycles was further proof of the young American artist's profound interest in the repertoire. First came Schumann's familiar "Frauenliebe and Leben," or "Woman's Love and Life," followed by a scond, a new set that might well carry the same title. Combining poems by Kirstin van Cleave and music by Thomas Pasatieri, the cycle is also about woman's love and life compressed into a single day.
Called "Day of Love," it moves from early lines that say, "I am so in love with you that every nerve of my being is on edge," to the disillusionment of "You raise your eyes, smile a hello, and see the undisguised 'No longer' staring vaguely from those eyes and you die a little each time."
Unfortunately, some of the poetry is wildly unsuited to song-writing, and Pasatierl's music often sounds not only contrived, but tortured until the two final sections, for which he finds a welcome lyrical line.
Von State sang the Irish songs, in Herbert Hughes' arrangements, and the French airs, arranged by Canteloube, in beautiful voice and style. The Schumann was over-restrained at times when far stronger projection of the words is imperative.
A somewhat metallic sound tinged the voice in the Pasatieri songs, not, it seemed, deliberately, but from some vocal tension.
Martin Katz played beautifully at times, and at other moments, quite superficially.