Soprano Joanne Robinson and Pianist Rachel Ruth Crumbly
On a warm summer evening almost one hundred people gathered to hear a program of art song entitled Mélodies Francaises by soprano and piano at Second Presbyterian Church in Norfolk. The size of the audience indicated the talent and charisma of these young performers. The program was being recorded and we were requested to applaud only at the end of each set. We were off to a good start!
The first half contained two sets of songs, one by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) and another by Franz Liszt (1811-1886). I later characterized this part of the program as "French art song with a German flair." The mostly novice art song audience was obviously enthralled by the exuberance and glamour of the performers, and well they should be; Ms. Robinson has a strong and beautiful voice, well matched to the power and precision of Ms. Crumbly's playing. The treatment of this material worked best for the Liszt songs which were greatly influenced by German lied. The forthright delivery of Oh! Quand je dors did not quite capture the mystery inherent in the text. Enfant, si j'étais roi and S'il est un charmant gazon and Comment, disaient-ils were performed with a serious intensity. The singer's facial expression indicated a clear understanding of the humor.
Two songs by Fauré, Aurore and Chanson d'amour were unfamiliar but Fleur jetée was done just right with a strong attack throughout the song by voice and piano. Le Secret is a song with an achingly beautiful melody and Notre amour is all about the intensity of true love.
Six songs by Debussy (1862-1918) were offered after the intermission. These pieces were performed with seriousness and intensity, but the vocal tones were always beautiful and sometimes breathtaking in their clarity, delivered with great confidence.
The program concluded with three songs by Erik Satie (1866-1925): La Statue de Bronze, Je te veux and La Diva de "L'Empire." Our performers were more at home in this repertoire and an encore from musical theatre rounded out the evening.
The reception was well attended and it was apparent that the audience had enjoyed this beautiful, irrepressible singer and her versatile accompanist.