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.
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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