Jerome Barry gave himself a heavy assignment in his song recital last night at Catholic University. With Thomas Mastroianni as his musicianly pianist, the Washington singer set out a program of songs by Beethoven -- "Adelaide" and the "Ferne Geliebte" cycle -- Richard Strauss, Duparc, Poulenc and Ravel.
With three of the most familiar songs of Strauss and Duparc, the "Banalites" of Poulenc and Ravel's Greek songs, Barry could not escape comparisons with some of the world's most famous song recitalists. His is an attractive lyric baritone, fairly wide in range and capable of a variety of colors.
His clear, easy German enunciation made him more persuasive in the Beethoven and Strauss, although he, like most who have tried them, found the Beethoven songs impossible to vitalize. As he moved into Strauss' "Traum durch died Dammerung," "Allerseelen" and "Zueignung," Barry let hand movements take over some of the work his voice should have carried by itself. These are not songs that need or profit from gesturing, particularly in such moving phrases as "dass ich dich wieder habe" in "Allerseelen."
Barry's basic problem, however is that both in technique and subtleties of phrasing, as well as in his French enunciation, he is still very much a rough jewel. Poulenc's "Banalites" were seriously misrepresented. In view of his solid musical impulses, it would be worth Barry's while to work purely on the technical side of things.