Flashback Friday - - Dawn Upshaw recital, 2015
Dawn Upshaw's birthday is on 7/17 - - she'll be 57. Here's a review of her BAM recital in 2015.
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I heard Dawn Upshaw in recital on 9/11/15, with Gilbert Kalish at the piano. It was at the Harvey theater, a medium-sized venue at BAM - - its lobby and theater are great for people watching. Young people, conservatory types, making the effort, full of false bravado. Portly middle-aged gay men in vests, looking at me and each other. Brawny young gay men in V-neck T-shirts, looking at the other gay men looking at them. Older people from the Upper West Side and Upper East Side - - they probably bought these Nonesuch albums on vinyl, in actual record stores. Maybe they even went into one of those listening booths, to hear a few choice cuts before making their purchase. I never had the opportunity to do this myself, but I seen it in the movies.
The program consisted of music from three classic Nonesuch recordings: veteran cellist Fred Sherry (and three younger people) playing the Elliott Carter sonata for flute, oboe, cello, and harpsichord - - Dawn Upshaw and Gil Kalish doing Charles Ives - - and Upshaw, Kalish, and lots of other people doing George Crumb’s *Ancient Voices of Children*.
The Carter was such a charming piece - - elegant and delectable. Not words you typically associate with 12-tone music, but that’s Carter for you. It took a bit of effort at first to hear the harpsichord, since it just plain doesn’t make as much sound as the flute, oboe, or cello, but Carter generally wrote the piece in a way where the harpsichord doesn’t play at the same time as the other instruments, or plays in a way that lets you hear it. All four musicians played beautifully. I stayed for the Q and A after the concert, and Sherry said that he had recorded the piece for Nonesuch when he was 19! That was a number of years ago, if his snowy white hair is any indication. One last thing: the pianist was wearing a black suit, black shoes, and bright red socks. The socks annoyed me. This is a good choice if you’re going to a holiday party. This is not a good choice for playing Elliott Carter at BAM.
It took me a while to get used to the current Dawn Upshaw. I’m a big fan from way back - - this is the fourth time I’ve heard her in recital, the first time was in 1990, in Rockford, Illinois, the most recent time was in 2008 at Carnegie Hall. Her voice has gotten thicker and a little patchy here and there. And she’s always swooped a lot, but that’s officially gotten old and tired. It almost never adds anything to the music. And this is petty, but she’s also put on quite a lot of weight since the last time I saw her. None of this had any impact on her presence or deep seriousness and sincerity as an artist, but I feel I should mention it to give full reportage.
The spirit of the late great American mezzo soprano Jan DeGaetani hovered over the concert. She and Kalish recorded an album of Ives songs on Nonesuch, and they were the first to perform and record *Ancient Voices of Children*. DeGaetani became a sort of mentor to Upshaw, and she and Kalish performed and recorded together for years.
The Ives songs were fantastic. They did “Memories”, which is two songs stuck together - - A. Very Pleasant is silly and hi