By Don Heckman
Ashland, Oregon. Chamber Music Concerts topped off their 2014-2015 season Friday night with a rare and memorable treat. It wasn’t a climactic closing event filled with choral high notes and trumpet fanfares. In fact, there were only two performers on stage at SOU’s Music Recital Hall: baritone Christopheren Nomura and pianist Daniel Lockert.
And that’s all that was needed. Nomura’s program was a fairly typical set of music for a vocal recital: Schubert’s The Wanderer’s Night, Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Ravel’s Don Quichotte a Dulcinee and songs from 20th century composers Richard Hundley and William Bolcom.
Nomura sang each exquisitely, accompanied with complete understanding by Lockert. Blessed with a magnificent voice, which he used with intimate musical understanding, he reached into the unique qualities of each song, from the lyricism of Schubert, the darkness of the Mahler and the colorful musical palette of Ravel to the two contemporary songs.
But Nomura had much more to offer, as well. He introduced each work with a narrative that was informative, communicative and often whimsical. A veteran of the opera stage, he expressed himself in music and dialogue with an engaging, even entertaining, quality that perfectly underscored and supported his interpretations.
The result was a performance calling up the best pleasures of chamber music at its finest, an ideal closing for the Chamber Music Concerts 2014-2015 season. And, as Nomura concluded with a delightful Gershwin encore, the final response from this listener (and perhaps many others) was the hopeful wish that Nomura would return for the 2015-2016 season as well.
( If, that is, he can find an open spot in the Broadway show he’s scheduled to do in the fall season. If not, we’ll have another good reason to spend some time in the city that never sleeps.)