The applause for bass-baritone Paul Plishka became overwhelming only near the end of his recital last night in the Terrace Theater, when he began to do what he does so well for the Metropolitan and other opera companies. The first "bravo" came in the breathless hush at the end of "Ella giammai m'amo" from Verdi's "Don Carlo," which he had sung magnificently, ranging dramatically through many shades of anger and despair and guiding his big, rich, superbly controlled voice through an equally wide variety of musical nuances. The applause grew after his encore, Banquo's aria from Verdi's "Macbeth," and rightly so; but that was not what the program was all about, it was merely what people bought tickets to hear.
Plishka's recital was chiefly about the special modalities of Russian, Ukrainian and American folk melody, particularly as these forms have inspired non-folk composers or been adapted by them. Stated like this, it may sound a bit dry, but embodied in the songs of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, a folk-song arrangement of Zador and the folk-imbued music of Lepky and Lysenko, it was an enlightening and electrifying experience in a specialized, fascinating sector of the art of song.
The interaction of folk and classical idioms was particularly notable in two short, sharply con- trasting cycles that were the program's true climaxes: Mussorgsky's "Songs and Dances of Death" and the "Four Gambling Songs" of John Jacob Niles, both performed magnificently. Pianist Thomas Hrinkiw was an excellent partner throughout.