Davison does credit to Strauss songs at Peabody

March 01, 1995|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Music Critic

The Peabody Conservatory's Friedberg Hall was filled for last night's concert by the Peabody Symphony Orchestra. The reason was probably the presence of Jennifer Davison in six Richard Strauss songs for soprano and orchestra. The word on Davison, the winner last year of Peabody's Sylvia L. Green Vocal Competition, is that she is one of the most accomplished young singers to come through the school in years.

She certainly lived up to her reputation on this occasion. She has a light, beautiful voice that is even in all parts of her range. Though her voice is rather small -- it may grow as she matures -- Davison projected beautifully over the composer's lush orchestrations.

And what she projected was more than tonal beauty. Davison is a musicianly singer, which is to say that she captured Strauss' sense of rapture and showed genuine concern for word detail. Her singing expressed the qualities that made Strauss fall in love with the soprano voice: a womanly, rather than a merely kittenish, seductiveness and a sense of compassionate warmth.

All that Davison's interpretation lacked was the sense of longing for what has been lost that is a feature of Strauss' vocal music -- most notably in the "Four Last Songs," but also in such relatively early ones as "Morgen" and "Das Rosenband." But it is unreasonable to expect such a sense of regret about what is no more from a 23-year-old singer, and Davison clearly has everything to look forward to.

The orchestra, which was under the direction of music director Teri Murai, sometimes played too loudly and, on a few occasions, without a sufficiently clean ensemble. But there was some gorgeous playing by concertmistress Jana Kupsky, whose performance of the haunting violin obbligato in "Morgen" was as exquisite as any this listener has heard.

The second half of the concert featured Murai leading the orchestra, as well as the Peabody Chorus and Singers, in an explosively passionate performance of the complete ballet music of Ravel's "Daphnis and Chloe."

The program opened with the orchestra's assistant conductor, Christopher Franklin, leading Thea Musgrave's "Rainbow" in an appropriately noisy and vigorous manner.

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