Sherri Rase – New York Q News

“The blending of Areyzaga and Cooke’s voices was literally thrilling, causing a flutter in that place near the top of where I imagine my heart to be. Certain singers, male or female, can cause that flutter with particularly well-executed harmonies. While the composer plays a part, songs are meant to be sung, and when they are sung so well, so smoothly, and with so much feeling, I find that, even as I write this, I’m feeling it again. “In the Garden, Near the Ford,” by our familiar friend Tchaikovsky, is the story of a young girl spurned by the man she favors. The two female voices intertwining have the sweetness of morning glories. This alone would have made the concert worth attending.

A path was threaded through … to Schubert’s “Auf Dem See,” where Areyzaga liltingly limned an aquatic exercise in concentration.

Fortunately, after intermission, our tour of beaches brings us to “Mananita de San Juan.” This lyric piece, paired with “Olas Gigantes,” was another study in contrasts by Areyzaga. First, she took us to a St. John’s day morn and a close encounter with a dove, which then turned to an entreaty of love. Next, we were shown the more serious aftermath of love’s departure in the thundering and bitter waves of the ocean. Blier’s selections for each of his singers treated us to lavish displays of individual talents in their fullness of range, timbre and dynamics. In this case D was for Delicious!

Areyzaga continued with Reynaldo Hahn’s “La barcheta,” from the cycle of songs he wrote when he and Marcel Proust first fell in love. The music and lyrics evoked the feeling of a special night, when a couple may feel privately entertained by all that’s around them.

The final section of the program contained the piece that vied with the earlier Tchaikovsky for my favorite of the evening. Pauline Viardot’s “Havanaise” is a paella of Spanish and French influences with an apparent soupçon of Italian flavoring. Areyzaga and Cooke combined in enchantment, as their voices intertwined like Renaissance scrollwork on an old building. The song’s Latin flavor, with French sensibility and some Italian figures, left me wanting more, as any good outing will do.

—Sherri Rase – New York Q News, May 20, 2009 (Recital with the New York Festival of Song)