The Phillips Collection concert Sunday afternoon was a romantic bath with Chopin, Liszt, Duparc, Faure' and even Benjamin Britten, who had to join the sentiment by association.
It was also an opportunity to hear tenor Curtis Rayam, who has hit the category of a singer to watch. He is a very operatic tenor, and the stage is clearly the right place for his full, dramatic and often beautiful voice. His best work was in Liszt's Three Sonnets of Petrach, which allowed him operatic scope. These songs are difficult, high, with extraordinary opportunity to do one's operatic stuff. In the Britten Michelangelo Sonnets it was another story, containment not being part of Rayam's unbuttoned style. Opera is drama; so is art song, but song-drama is internal and inwardly directed. The two kinds of drama can seldom be merged.
Pianist Zaidee Parkinson played a Chopin e'tude and barcarolle as well as the exacting piano parts for the songs. She is a thinking pianist, but it is not easy to follow her thinking. She produces a lush, rich sound, but that very richness was also a drawback, because it is not open to much variety.
But the program had design and integrity, and both artists made a good try. All that dark-colored velour does, however, finally pall. There can be too much of anything in spite of good intentions.