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D.C. Recital Debut of Konrad Jarnot

Konrad Jarnot, baritoneThe Vocal Arts Society's presentation of baritone Konrad Jarnot at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater was exceptional. Although Jarnot delayed his arrival to Washington by two days to combat the flu, vocal coarseness was seldom heard in his full program of songs by Wagner, Liszt, and Duparc. Jarnot’s rich, stable tone and vivid storytelling ability reminded one of his teacher, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

In Der Engel, the first of Wagner’s Five Songs on Poems of Mathilde Wesendonck, Wagner sets the angel’s ascent with an upward line softening and slowing -- a unique contrast to Romantic phrasing that normally grows with volume and speed when rising. Stehe still! features an emotional change of heart also found in many of the songs on Monday’s program. Opening with the “rushing, roaring wheel of time, knife-blade of eternity,” the song’s tumultuousness transformed into a victorious devotion to “holy Nature’s” riddle.

Other Reviews:

Tom Huizenga, Konrad Jarnot, Braving Flu And Wagner (Washington Post, December 5)
Liszt’s Tre Sonetti de Petrarca sets the Renaissance poet’s poems (in Italian) in a somewhat neo-classical way, looking backward. However, Liszt's Five Selected Songs provided an opportunity for adventuresome harmonic landscapes and pianism. Hebbell’s poem Blume und Duft seemed to stop and go, as if one were stopping to smell different flowers while lost in profound thought. In Liszt's gripping setting of Heine’s poem about the golden-haired Loreley, the maiden’s lovely music is tragically interrupted, when a boatman’s attention is diverted toward the maiden instead of the rocks in his path. The musical storm to follow featured Jarnot’s strongest singing; the walls shook.

The Five Selected Songs of Henri Duparc were limited by Jarnot’s unusual French diction. Pianist Alexander Schmalcz provided superb support from the piano. At only $40 per ticket, the Vocal Arts Society provides a true value.

The next recital sponsored by Vocal Arts Society features baritone Mariusz Kwiecień and pianist Howard Watkins at the Embassy of Austria (December 13, 7:30 pm).

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