A fews years ago, when baritone William Parker sang here, it was musical intelligence, superb diction and the touching intimacy of his voice that made such a tremendous impression.
Last night at the National Gallery, the diction was still superb. Over the last couple of years, the musicianship has, if anything, grown. But the vocal intimacy has given way to a rich, resonant, smooth sound that could wake the dead or melt the iciest heart, and that places him among the truly great singers in the world today. The intimacy will be missed, although as he continues to grow, Parker may be able to command both scales of communication.
Parker, who recently won the Kennedy Center-Rockfeller Competition for the performance of American music, brought a lot of American music to this program.
The Griffes songs, Brahmsian in conception, had a sensuous intensity. Four of Barber's recent songs were Cadman had a romantic Victorian air about them, and the concluding songs by Noles captured a whole world of folk traditon.
The heaviest music of the evening were the six monologues from "Jedermann" by the Swiss composer Martin. In them Parker traversed a metramorphosis from greed to redemption, reflecting the changes brilliantly in every nuance of his singing. Accompanist William Huckaby matched this with brilliance of his own.