Few concerts this season have been as satisfying as that of Glenda Maurice, who performed last night at the National Gallery of Art with pianist David Garvey. Maurice's voice is huge and gorgeous; her musical instincts are wise. Even in the cavernous acoustics of the East Garden Court, the sound she unveiled was as warm and irresistible as a summer dawn.
She is billed as a mezzo-soprano, but it was more than wishful thinking that made many in the hall hear a Wagnerian soprano timbre. Whatever limits the voice has, they were not apparent last night as Maurice sang works by composers from Schubert to Britten. Her chest tones could be haunting, as in the low-lying "Ich bin der Walt abhanden gekommen" by Mahler. All through the range the sound swelled seamlessly, with an almost imperceptible free vibrato at the top that recalled the voice of Christa Ludwig.
Even when the voice's agility was tested, as in Schubert's "Fischerweise," Maurice's instincts could find endearing solutions to any musical problem. In the "Lied der Mignon" she was able to fall from a heroic forte to a gentle piano with magical effect. Her emotional treatment of Duparc and Barber tended to be generalized, but the sound never ceased to please. The audience was more vocal in its enthusiasm than is common in these concerts, and Maurice thanked them first with a noble encore of Strauss' "Zueignung."