Matthew Polenzani: Live at the Verbier Festival & Academy

"The little Swiss town of Verbier, once sleepy out of ski season, has become in the past decade the home of one of Europe's most stimulating summer music festivals and academies for young musicians. Events at Verbier, presented in appealing venues, attract a largely international, multilingual audience, who are attentive and appreciative of the fare at hand, as is palpable in listening to this document of a 2003 recital by the enormously appealing lyric tenor, Matthew Polenzani.

The natural ease and directness of Polenzani's delivery seem to capture the audience increasingly as the recital progresses ...

Polenzani brings a limpid legato to Rossini's "La partenza" and gorgeous, pure vowels that breathe life into d'Annunzio's poem and Pizzetti's evocative setting of "I pastori." Carlo Pedrotti's "Serenata" receives a treatment that sounds sensual in an ingenuous way, with a flawless shimmering diminuendo. A group of Schubert staples includes a "Frühlinsglaube" reminiscent of the pure beauty of Fritz Wunderlich, "Ständchen" spun out with just the right sense of atmosphere and an "Adelaide" that could hardly be more meltingly sung. "Du liebst mich nicht" misses the ultimate layer of intensity within the text, but "Der Musensohn" provides a perfect match for the tenor's gifts.

Poulenc's seldom-sung cycle, "Fiançailles pour rire" (whose sixth song, "Fleurs" is often excerpted), with text by Louise de Vilmorin, a poet Poulenc loved to set, is beautifully vocalized, lacking perhaps only the irony needed in "Mon cadavre" (although the remove with which it's approached works quite well) and a certain tipsy quality craved in "Violon."

Polenzani's crystal-clear diction and his youthful timbre present Gerald Finzi's ten-song A Young Man's Exhortations, set to Thomas Hardy poems, as if the tenor were the person by whom, as well as for whom, these songs were created. Here, his naturalness of delivery finds an ideal vehicle, and the audience is clearly swept away. The encore, "Danny Boy," is somehow a bit of a letdown after all that. Roger Vignoles is the exemplary accompanist, the weight of his playing matching perfectly that of his vocalist." (Ira Siff, Opera News)

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