There are lots of impressive aspects of baritone Hakan Hagegard's art--a splendid voice, inborn musicality and intelligence to name just a few--but, above all, it was his power of concentration that made his Saturday recital so fine at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater.
The program was rather ordinary: a group of Schubert Lieder, some Scandinavian songs and sets by Berg, Mozart, Duparc and Wolf. Hagegard chose a modest and restrained approach. Only in the few humorous songs on the program did he show the broad comic gifts that have helped make him an opera star. But despite the restraint and a program that held few surprises or moments of levity, he made each song an event. It was concentration that carried the tension through to an explosive conclusion in Sibelius' splendid "Svarta Rosor" and that maintained an aura of uncertainty in Berg's "Seven Early Songs." Again, in Duparc's wistful songs, it was Hagegard's concentration on the sounds of the French language and the imperatives of the poetry that made the performance so powerful.
For his part, pianist Thomas Schuback was equally restrained, a little square in Schubert's spritely "Abschied" but properly decisive in the marvelous comic scene that is Wolf's "Abschied."