On Sunday afternoon May 13, 2018 lyric soprano Hyesang Park and pianist Ken Noda gave a stunningly beautiful recital of diverse love songs at the University of Miami’s Gusman Concert Hall. Throughout Park’s unforgettable singing one could easily understand why she is scheduled for major operatic roles in the world’s principal opera houses during the next few years. It is hard to think of a more sensitive pianist for a vocal recital than Ken Noda, a Barenboim protégé who played as soloist and chamber pianist with virtually all of the world’s greatest orchestras and chamber musicians before becoming musical assistant to the Director of the Metropolitan Opera over 25 years ago. The interpretive collaboration and technical quality of his playing was simply unforgettable.
The first half of the program opened with Henry Purcell’s “Sweeter Than Roses,” followed by Joaquin Rodrigo’s Cuatro Madrigales Amatorios (four songs about love based upon Renaissance poetry) and five songs by Clara Schumann. Noda commented that Clara Schumann was most probably greatly underrated as a composer, because she was also such a great pianist. The five Clara Schumann songs focused on various aspects of love relationships: a breakup, a couple which keeps breaking up but cannot communicate with each other despite their love for each other, a plain girl who says to the guy who loves her – “love me for myself,” and love on earth when springtime arrives.
After intermission the primary focus turned to French songs about love. Renaldo Hahn (who moved to France from Venezuela at a very early age) depicted 17th-century courtship before the love and loss of a loved one. Faure’s songs included images by the edge of water, seduction among plants based on a Watteau painting and a love song. Poulenc’s songs, also based on love – Metamorphosis, seduction, after love-making and a “crazy riff on love titled “Paganini,” were then followed by the aria Adieu notre petite table from Massenet’s Manon. The recital concluded with three songs by Granados focusing on all aspects of love. In remarks from the stage, Noda added that the Spanish songs tended to be more direct and less nuanced than the French songs about love.
The standing ovation from the audience was rewarded with “I Could Have Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady.