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Tenor carries Worcester Schubertiad opener By Jonathan Blumhofer Telegram & Gazette Reviewer Posted Sep. 27, 2015 at 5:53 PM WORCESTER - The Worcester Schubertiad opened its fourth season on Saturday night at First Unitarian Church with “A Supreme Quartet,” a substantial helping of music by nine composers sung by four singers and accompanied by three instrumentalists. Of the vocalists, the evening’s finest singing belonged to tenor Stanley Wilson. He hasn’t got the biggest voice or the most honeyed tone. But he sings with such a lyrical temperament and straightforward intelligence that the first quality that came over in his performances was the unalloyed musical aim of each song. It helped, no doubt, that his selections – a pair of chansons by Henri Duparc and three songs by Frank Bridge – fit his voice so well. Indeed, you could hardly have asked for a more consistent tone or better diction from Wilson in the former, and the high level of energy and character with which he imbued Bridge’s settings of Shakespeare, Keats, and Coleridge proved most compelling. Soprano Jane Shivick packed many of those same qualities into her readings of songs by Rachmaninoff, Brahms, and Richard Strauss. She has a huge range, as was demonstrated rather explosively in Rachmaninoff’s “Zdes Khorosho” and “Ya zhdu tebya,” and a pleasing variety of dark shades in her tone (nicely displayed in a pair of Brahms duets with baritone Ron Williams). To my ears, though, she was at her best in her closing trio of Strauss lieder, especially “Allerseelen” and “Zueignung,” which allowed her to fully channel the lyrical and dramatic sides of her musical personality. Baritone Williams seemed to be having something of an off night: he started off sounding a bit raw, had to restart his second song (Schubert’s “Krieger’s Ahnung”), and throughout the evening had trouble both with German diction and keeping lyrics straight. His voice easily filled the performance space, though more by way of sheer volume than by fullness or warmth of tone. This had the tendency of giving his contributions (four Schubert songs and a pair of Brahms duets) a rather hard edge, though his pitch was true and he projected his lowest register robustly. Mezzo-soprano Sondra Kelly brought a dusky tone to Brahms’ lovely “Zwei Gesänge” (and to whose obbligato accompaniment violist Don Kirshnaswami supplied velvety warmth) as well as to a set of two-part folksongs by Mendelssohn (sung with tenor Wilson). Pianists Malcolm Halliday and Olga Rogach acquitted themselves well as accompanists. They also took the stage, to more mixed results, as a duo. Their account of Chopin’s “Heroic” Polonaise (in Renaud de Vilbac’s arrangement for piano four-hands) was texturally fuzzy and rhythmically stiff. Taken at a deliberate pace, Vilbac’s arrangement – which basically doubles the original’s right hand part up an octave – took on a rather shrill quality, too. Better was their performance of Hermann Goetz’s Sonata in G minor, op. 17. It’s a piece that doesn’t really add anything to the genre – echoes of Mendelssohn and Schumann abound – but it has moments of real drama, especially in the absorbing slow movement, which traces an arc from turbulence to peace. Halliday and Rogach etched the Sonata’s broad outlines clearly and satisfyingly mined that second movement’s expressive depth. After announcing the winners of the Schubertiad’s recent art song and chamber music competition (they will participate in the Schubertiad’s April’s performance), all four singers assembled for Schubert’s “An die Musik.” This ode to the “gracious art” of music proved both a fitting way to tie up the evening’s many musical strands and a poignant one.