The program consisted of two halves and one intermission. Songs were presented in sets of three; there were five sets in the first half, and three and a “postlude” in the second. Titled “The Many Faces of Love,” the carefully and felicitously thought out program examined various aspects of love: “Wooing, Cooing, Adieuing, or Winking, Linking, Sinking, or Affection, Connection, Rejection” with an additional bit of insight from Erich Fromm, “The mature response to the problem of existence is love.”
Altogether, the songs on the program dated from the sixteenth century to the late twentieth and came from England, Italy, France, the United States and Austria. Some sets brought together diverse composers from different eras, some, diverse composers from the same era; only one set contained songs by a single composer, in this case John Dowland. In spite of the diversity of composers, eras and languages, all the sets shared the same bitter-sweet theme: love – or liking or lust – always ends.
The concert had an intimate feel to it; more about love’s very humble, human foibles than its eternal glories, the music evoked informal conversations, some delicate, some bawdy, in taverns or parlors, country assembly halls or urban salons. Testament to both the skill and the virtuosity of the singers who work with Rosenbaum was the fact that each song was presented with stylistic accuracy (and superb diction) according to its period and genre, and an unerring adherence to the spirit of each piece, whether delicate or ribald, hopeful or regret-laden.
The last set of the first half of the program was particularly delightful. Directed by Jeanette Rosenbaum Pincus, the Variety Choir sang two songs – a ballad by John Farmer (1570-1601) and a sweet love song by Claudin de Sermisy (1490-1562) – with verve and panache. The New York Virtuoso Singers then joined the Variety Choir, and Pincus joined the singers, as Rosenbaum led them all in Paul Simon’s “Overs.” As the first half of the concert concluded, and the audience applauded, Rosenbaum exuded an entirely unabashed pride in his daughter’s directorship of her choir and in their participation in the concert.
Any concert of twenty-five different songs presents both frustrations and delights. The particular pleasures of each song are over swiftly, replaced by others; the breezy leap from one to the next, in spite of graceful pacing, doesn’t leave much opportunity to fully savor each piece. Nonetheless, when seldom heard songs get a well-deserved presentation, the frustration of hearing them only briefly seems an irrelevant quibble.
The New York Virtuoso Singers: “The Many Faces of Love” (February 14, 2015)
Merkin Concert Hall, 129 West 67th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets or information, call 212-501-3330 or visit http://www.nyvirtuoso.org
Running time: first half, 43 minutes; second half, 38 minutes