Adept duo hits high notes in classical concert

The Lyra Baroque Orchestra's first concert of this season, on Friday night, offered an intimate evening of song, with Jacques Ogg at the fortepiano and soprano Maria Jette singing.

Featuring primarily classical-era art songs, by contemporaries Johann Friedrich Reichardt, Mozart and Haydn, it provided a taste of Italian, German and English-language songs from the latter part of the eighteenth century.

The performances were outstanding, and the Zumbro Lutheran Church venue attractive. This Liederabend ("Song Evening"), however, deserved a more cozy and salon-like setting to fully enhance the music.

The fortepiano preceded the modern piano. Its sound is softer and less bright, but still highly expressive, as exemplified by gifted interpreter, Ogg.

The songs offered plenty of opportunity for word painting, where the music "sounds" like the words it represents. Of the four Reichardt Sonnetti di Petrarca (Petrarch's Sonnets), the last, about the unbearable torments of love, is filled with an octave drop of the vocal line on "ice," vocal "clutching" and "embracing," a pleading "beg for aid" and desperation when "death and life displease me equally."


In spite of the pure, symmetrical classicism of the music, Jette and her seamless collaborator brought out its tensions and resolutions (appoggiatura) in the most satisfying ways.

Jette's diction in all three languages was excellent, and her poise and stage presences appropriate to the given works. Her introductory comments are always gems.

Ogg played the deferential accompanist, but it was in fact a powerful duo. Jette's voice is fluid, delicate and powerful. She has great range and the nimbleness to hit piercingly high notes in quick successions of runs or arpeggios.

This was especially apparent in the emotional high point in the evening — Haydn's Arianna a Naxos, about Ariadne's reaction to Theseus' abandonment of her after their first night together. As Ariadne awakens to the reality that her Theseus is not just off hunting for the morning, but has in fact left her, we hear the cheerful seductions of her voice turn gradually toward the foreboding, questioning, doubt, fear, anger, denial, terror, horror, rage and grief of a woman spurned. Jette's portrayal of these building emotional states was brilliantly performed, causing at least one listener to experience shivers at three points.

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