Tag Archives: Anthony Tommasini

keys to a classy recital: a how-to from bari Andy Stuckey

Baritone Andy Stuckey's April 28 recital at Share Hall

A rigorous solo recital may have been a requirement for his doctoral degree in musical arts from Rutgers University, but baritone W. Andrew “Andy” Stuckey transformed an academic expectation into a labor of love for him and (especially) for the audience.     

It was a stunning evening of vocally challenging music which showcased Mr. Stuckey’s  facility in a range of pieces, including perfectly appointed selections from rare baroque arias to quirky contemporary tunes, all masterfully sung.     

First, Mr. Stuckey has a powerful voice and exceptional control, soundly tested in a Veracini piece, “Se main piagato la morte,”  replete with run after run. The other pieces of early music presented included “Ah! Si vien Morte” from Nicola Porpora  and “Pensa a chi geme d’amor piagata” by George Frederic Handel.     

Joining Mr. Stuckey for the Baroque portion of the program were  Andrew Kirkman, violin;  Mira Kang, cello; and Allison Brewster Franzetti, harpsichord–all accomplished musicians. Then the stage was reset and Mr. Stuckey was accompanied by Ms. Franzetti on piano for the balance of the program.     

My favorite pieces were the Brahms selections, “Vier ernste Gesänge,” which were ideally suited to his range, his velvety rich baritone, and the intensity he projects in performance. (Mr. Stuckey talks at length about the Brahms’ selections later in this post.) He concluded the program with two of Paul Verlaine‘s poems set to music by Stravinsky and three of E.A. Robinson’s poems set to music by J. Duke. I hadn’t heard the poem “Richard Cory” for decades–literally.  Duke’s selections dripped with irony, as startling as the first time I heard them recited–expertly interpreted and sung by Mr. Stuckey. The encore, which Mr. Stuckey called a potboiler, was the perfect ending to a first-rate program.     

Andy Stuckey and his accompanist Allison Brewster Franzetti were ideally matched--both gifted professionals.

Stuckey and his accompanist Allison Brewster Franzetti were ideally matched--both gifted professionals.


Besides being a polished performance, the entire program was such a well conceived event that I was full of questions for Mr. Stuckey, which he gamely answered below.     

How did you select the program (who selected the program)?
It was a collaboration between me and my teacher at Rutgers, Professor Eduardo Chama.  In my career, I have found that the opportunities to sing recitals are few and far between so I am delighted to do the recital as part of the Doctoral degree requirement.     

I consider the Brahms “Four Serious Songs” to be a milestone set for my voice type.  They are at the absolute height of song repertoire and are challenging in every way.  In these songs the range is broad both tonally and emotionally, the subject is complex and deep, and the intensity required is breathtaking.  The challenge of performing music like this is what I relish about being a singer.  It is an honor to perform them.  The Stravinsky are interesting as they are a somewhat unique representation of his style.  They also happen to be orchestrated which will hopefully make them useful to me in future orchestral engagements.  The trio of John Duke vignettes are pieces that I’ve wanted to perform for quite some time.  I find the poetry fascinating and effective and the music quite illustrative. They are simply fun!  The Baroque arias were added in part, to fulfill the chamber music requirement of the degree.  I had performed them at Rutgers in concert with the original instrument group Musica Raritana.  In fact the violinist in my recital, Dr. Andrew Kirkman, is the conductor of that group. The trio of arias represent a sort of picture of the London opera scene in 1735.  It happened that one of Handel’s singers, Signor Montagnano had “defected” from Handel’s theater to a rival.     

Is it customary for the recitalist to translate what he is singing?
Generally, it is considered an important courtesy to provide the audience with a translation of the works in the recital.  A recital is SO much about the setting of poetry and prose to music that it really enhances the experience if all who are there understand the text.  Because the meaning is paramount, translation is a necessary part of the process for any recitalist.     

How long did you rehearse for this?
I started learning the repertoire last Fall and have been working like crazy ever since.  A recital is a HUGE undertaking.  Understand that the largest opera role, say Falstaff or Scarpia in my case, might be onstage for an hour.  However, the character would certainly not be singing the entire time.  In a recital of 50 minutes, it’s just the singer and a pianist. There is usually a more dense concentration of text and multiple styles which make the recital a hugely challenging art.     

What was the name of the encore piece?
 The encore was “And This Shall be for Music” by George Cory.     

Did you have a favorite piece that you performed?
The third Brahms song, “O Tod, wie bitter bist du”, is a song that has changed my view of life.     

You sang the Brahms beautifully. Do you agree with NY Times critic Anthony Tommasini who named Brahms to his top ten classical composers list?
Thank you!  Interesting list.  My initial impression of the list is that it is well done.  I might have included Monteverdi rather than Brahms but I see why Brahms was included.  Brahms is easy to overlook because to our ears it is an awful lot of pretty.  There is no doubt that he was one of the great composers of Western Classical Music though so I wouldn’t quibble too much.     

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You can follow Andrew Stuckey on Twitter @wastuckey or friend him on Facebook. He was also featured during Baritone Month earlier this year on this blog.

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Filed under Performers, Recitals, Reviews

Have you read the list?

What fun it’s been reading all of the articles leading up to Anthony Tommasini‘s Top Ten List of Classical Composers!

And he did, in fact, publish a top ten yesterday. And here they are:

  1. Bach
  2. Beethoven
  3. Mozart
  4. Schubert
  5. Debussy
  6. Stravinsky
  7. Brahms
  8. Verdi
  9. Wagner
  10. Bartok

Yes, I and how many others were waiting for the official list. Who would be included? Who by the nature of such an exercise would have to be excluded?

To me, what was more significant than naming names was the two-week process he employed and his responses to reader reactions and feedback on the process. So, for instance, I was delighted to read that in Tommasini’s view, not enough readers mentioned Benjamin Britten on the lists they submitted, so he’s recommitted himself to writing more or doing more “advocacy” about Britten as a result. And his laments he could not include Puccini or Handel.

I love that he took some risk–including Debussy and Stravinsky–leaving some of the most venerable off his list (Haydn, Chopin). Choosing Brahms when many he respects would not.

Certainly, other opera lovers have to be excited that he included Verdi and Wagner, citing the volume and force of present day passion for their works as the reason for their appearances. We all know Mozart wrote many other pieces besides operas and that Beethoven only wrote one opera to speak of. So, to have two sheerly operatic composers on the list was well–thrilling. Of course, the other argument stands to reason, how could he not have purely operatic composers on the list.

More than the announcement of the list, per se, I loved the discussion, the debate, the back-and-forth. Who’s in? Who’s bound to be out? I’m not going to go berserk because Mozart is ranked third. It’s one man’s list after all albeit one very knowledgeable man. There was bound to be bias and personal filters at work–and there was. Just read his little Stravinsky vignette, if you don’t believe me. 

Overall, what a thoroughly engaging, thought-provoking process!

But how about you? Did you follow the list-making over the last two weeks? What do you think of THE LIST?


Filed under Audience participation, Classical Composers, Poll

January, the merry month of Mozart!

I hereby declare that January of 2011 is officially Mozart Month on Operatoonity. W.A. Mozart was born on January 27, 1756. Does anyone on this green earth need a better reason to celebrate Happy Mozart Month in January? I think not.

I’m keenly aware that other important composers were born in January. I certainly don’t intend to exclude the contributions of other composers and performers this month and focus solely on Mozart, day in and day out. That might be a tad obsessive. But I do intend to dig up and trot out a lot of Mozart-related posts, as many as I can muster.

We are talking about Mozart. And we know Mozart is going to make Anthony Tommasini‘s much heralded top ten composer list. Mozart has already made his Big 4 of Vienna list. And I’ll bet you my entire opera book collection that Mozart won’t be the one “Viennese composer”  who must be dropped for Tommasini to compile his Big Ten.

Did you know that three of Mozart’s operas premiered this month? You’ll find out which three–all in good time, my pretties. I’ll bet you didn’t know that Mozart has his own blog. Don’t believe me? You’ll have to check out this site. All the entries were penned by none other than W.A. Mozart himself.

Do you know how many instruments Mozart played?  At least seven: piano, violin, viola, organ, harpsichord, and maybe several other instruments including the clarinet and trumpet.

You may already know a great deal about Mozart. If you do, I hope you’ll share it with me. But you may know more by the conclusion of Happy Mozart Month, if you stop back a few times between now and January 31. Not to mention that all of the quotable “don’t quote me’s” will be about Mozart, too. And you’ll see a poll or two and other audience participation gimmicks tailored to Mozart Month, too. Can’t wait to have a regular knock-down-drag-’em-out about which opera is Mozart’s best.

Do stop back now and again.  I’m counting on it.

For the love of Mozart,

Gale M.

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Filed under Classical Composers