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Trememndous student recital by Kreuze in Kresge

Another star is born.


Kresge Auditorium, Sunday, Dec. 9.


WITH A BOLD and fresh program, soprano Deborah Kreuze '91 showed off MIT's musical talent at its most imaginative. Her recital, titled Sorry, No Bach, was given in Kresge and sported 50 minutes of music from 20th century composers. The program split evenly American school and Viennese school music. There were works by MIT student composers

as well as from turn-of-the-century heavyweights.

Daniel Schmidt '91 set texts from elementary school children in his Five Very Early Songs (1990). The texts were bouncy, fresh, and stagey, including "the thousand dollars" and "unicorn and dum the dragon." Composed in a catchy, dance-based style, the pieces showed tremendous economy as well as native understanding of the voice and of dramatic sensibility. Schmidt accompanied his sometimes hectic pieces on the piano with panache and enthusiasm. They are some of the finest songs heard in years and display Schmidt's tremendous potential for an individual American idiom.

Voice and Percussion (1990) by Charles Pokorny '91 is an experimental venture into the potential of wordless voice. Scored for a small, Crumb-ian percussion ensemble (complete with requisite xylo-bowing) played by Eric Ostling '88, the piece's spare texture and angular, non-intuitive lines provide a tremendous risk for the singer. Though Kreuze clearly rose to the challenge, the music's eclectic wanderings lacked sufficient definition to provide a frame for performance. Nonetheless, the piece's parsimony and pointillism were fresh and daring, certainly worth the rehearsal time.

After the superb student works, Kreuze tackled some of the most difficult vocal literature imaginable. Twelve Songs by Emily Dickinson (1951) are the pinnacle of the late Aaron Copland's vocal works, written in astonishing clarity and beauty. This clarity, however, leaves the performer exposed, almost naked, through long sustains and death-defying leaps. Their vocal range is as large as the emotional range. These pieces define American art song, and for this reason are very rare for student projects.

Equally difficult are Alban Berg's Seven Early Songs (1905-1908), the last group of tonal-chromatic Weltschmerz before the birth of atonal chromaticism and Viennese serialism. These songs -- from seven turn-of-the-century German poets -- are brooding, tender, ecstatic, and thoroughly romantic; and their rich harmony, inner voices, and inherent mixture of drama and repose are very challenging.

How marvelous, then, to hear Kreuze hit the boards hard. The Schmidt songs came alive in wonder and precocious observation. The Berg songs, especially the first three, were balanced yet emotional, occasionally epic when the score demanded epic treatment. Unfortunately, Kreuze's technical weaknesses were most visible in the middle pieces. Her occasional breathiness, lack of visceral breath-connection, and thin upper-regions sound could not be covered by the thin texture of Pokorny's or Copland's works. Although her natural inclinations toward romantic interpretations would have stood her through these two works, her insecurity was augmented by more traditional, less heartfelt approaches to both text and score. Nonetheless, though these pieces were less successful, Kreuze was occasionally able to hit emotional paydirt and give the audience something very personal to take home.

It is perhaps not surprising that Kreuze did so well with "early songs," being yet early herself. However, like the pieces in question, she shows tremendous artistry and a clear dramatic understanding. She could quite realistically become another Jan de Gaetani once her technique solidifies. It would be very rewarding to hear Kreuze perform Hindemith's Mariansleben (first version) or a bank of Kurt Weill or Cole Porter or Poulenc tunes. She has certainly, through her own rough and tumble way, shown that she is a very promising talent, continuing a string of surprising young stars at this school.