John Aler's song recital at Maryland University's Tawes Theater last night was packed with musicality of the highest order, illuminated by ravishing sounds and often made radiant by a rare feeling for the deep meanings of his songs.
Few singers today bring any of the great songs of Franz Liszt, in three of which -- all from "William Tell," -- Aler made some of the strongest impressions of the entire evening. His awareness of the profundity of "Der Fischerknabe" was one of the great moments. It was in these songs also that his pianist, Michael Cordovana, provided his best playing of the evening.
Earlier in the program, with baroque songs by Cesti, Dourlen and Veracini, Aler displayed his remarkable flexibility, complete to intimate, easily controlled trills. Aler's voice is light, beautifully placed and ideal for much great music. He moved easily through songs of Schumann, Vaughn Williams and Rachmaninov, projecting five languages with notable skill. Only his German needs greater stress on consonants, especially those at the beginnings of words. And now and then his English, as in the moving setting of Shakespeare's "Orpheus With His Lute," failed at the very end, on the word "die."
To other singers, these minute hints would be pointless. But Aler is an artist of rare achievements who must, because of his attainments, polish his art to an ever higher point. There is more ecstasy in Rachmaninov than he found, lovely as his voice was in "How fair this spot" and the final phrases of "O Do Not Sing."
So much of his Schumann group was beautiful that he should not have tried, however valiantly, for "The Two Grenadiers." No singer can do everything, and this song is outside Aler's powers. He will save himself grief and vocal problems by avoiding such temptations.