Soprano Dinah Bryant and pianist Daniel Blumenthal gave their listeners at the Phillips Collection yesterday afternoon a program of rare quality and elegant performance.
There were groups of songs by Mendelssohn, Strauss, Debussy and Wolf, a foursome of English songs by Warlock, Britten and Quilter -- the latter's "Fair House of Joy" being a real gem -- and Zerbinetta's aria from "Ariadne auf Naxos" by Richard Strauss. That lineup is a handful for any pianist and a large assignment for any soprano.
Blumenthal upheld his reputation with playing that was luminous in sound and perfect accomodation for Bryant. She is a musician of distinction among singers, having studied both piano and cello. This background showed in the security of her traversal of some of the most difficult music ever written, as well as in the ideal way she realized each of the various styles through which she moved.
Her voice is a flexible, high lyric coloratura. Beautiful in every range, it takes on a special radiance, a kind of ecstasy as she moves up to the top A,B flat and the notes just above theose. And Bryant controls her instrument with real mastery. The arching lines of Debussy's earliest songs were as lovely as those of neglected Mendelssohn and familiar Strauss. The great Strauss aria is a Himalaya for any singer, and there were one or two icy patches on which Bryant skidded, but she covered herself with real glory most of the way. It was a fine afternoon for those who love good singing. Only one reservation: There were too many times when words were swallowed up in some strange production process.