Rachel Garcia Opens Chamber Music Now Season
November 11, 2003
By Deborah Kravetz, Sequenza 21

Chamber Music Now of Philadelphia opened its second season presenting soprano Rachael Garcia in a program of world premieres and recent compositions surrounding music by Rachmaninoff and Debussy based on comparable texts – which only proves a good art song is not hard to find these days. Here, the texts are as equally important as the music, and even more emphasized with their presentation and grounding in present day vernacular.

The highlight of this concert was Three Songs by Zhou Tian. Wind, a vocalise accompanied by chords is almost too staccato to be wind, but the singer's vocal production becomes airy at the end. The color of joy is represented by the liveliness of the antic Yellow Bird and is freely sung with relaxed passion and a light tone. The Transcience of a moment is presented simply, a capella in the first section, and then with lightly flowing accompaniment. This set, sung in Chinese and accompanied by the composer, was the most relaxed and confident on the program, presented without being over-sung, with text and music most commensurate.

Almost as memorable was Which Way Home?, by Drew Hemenger set to poems by Anne Sexton. This set is an almost operatic biography with dramatic variations in each episode. There is a perfectly "crazy" sense to the blend of music and text, which are in different styles but do well by the colloquial lyrics; from a rollicking music hall tune, the singer's precise diction puts the insanity of a Happy Family over nicely and she seemed to be having fun telling the story. The eerie up and down scales of Her Kind were effectively dramatic vocally, as was the jazzy, jagged rhythm of Us.

Songbook selections by Jennifer Higdon stood out for their simplicity and bounce. Higdon has a dance in each of these simple and skillfully constructed love songs, from the quiet lullaby of In our Quiet, to Threaded and ending with the joyful Hop & Toe Dance.

In between these pieces, Juliette Stango's Vorrei Vedere Il Ciel had way too much ornate melody for such light and simple text about butterflies, kites and light blue eyes and skies. The singer projected a lovely sound, but the emotional projection of the sense was buried in too much vibrato from Garcia's rich, warm timbre, and I would have preferred crisper consonants and lighter tone to shape the text.