There are two kinds of singers in this world, the ones who concentrate on "the voice" and the ones who concentrate on "the song." Fortunately, tenor Michael Hume is among the latter. In a recital at NIH yesterday that sampled the delicacies of five countries and four languages, he communicated the heart of each song with an art that relied, only in part, on vocal beauty.
At his command, in addition, were an arsenal of expressive vocal techniques, evident intimacy with the poetry and that ineffable dramatic sense of timing that makes good joke-tellers so funny.
The finest singing of the afternoon came in Vaughan-Williams' "On Wenlock Edge" and Respighi's "Il Tramonto," where, with the collaboration of the Ciompi String Quartet, he painted the atmosphere as well as the outlines of the text.
The rest of the program, a French group and music by Brahms and Argento, was distinguished by the idiomatic treatment accorded each nationality.
Hume's tendency to sacrifice consonants on the altar of the legato line was the only barrier to dramatic projection in this performance. The few occasions when they got full attention, in the Brahms "Vergebliches Standchen" and in Argento's "Diaphenia," made their understatement elsewhere all the more evident.
Pianist William Huckaby provided superb support.