Whither Must I Wander
Songs by Vaughan Williams, Howells, Copland, Medtner and R Schumann
Will Liverman (baritone), Jonathan King (piano)
Odradek ODRCD389 50.29 mins
Baritone Will Liverman recently became the first African American to sing Pagageno at the Metropolitan Opera, and this is his debut solo recital.
It’s built around Vaughan Williams’s Songs of Travel, and Liverman’s account of the opening song, ‘The Vagabond’, combines a firm, oaky baritone with a sharp interpretive attitude – this wanderer imparts a sense of coiled expectation without needing to hector aggressively.
Some of the airborne quality of ‘Let Beauty Awake’ is sucked out by the dry acoustic of the recording, which tends to emphasise the piano to the detriment of Liverman. His delicately floated legato at the conclusion of ‘Roadside Fire’ seems almost incidental to Jonathan King’s rippling accompaniment.
Forensic dissection of verbal detail is not Liverman’s thing. In ‘Youth and Love’ his satisfyingly steady tone and ability to distil strong atmosphere without obtrusive interventions make for gripping listening. Similarly, his readings of ‘The Infinite Shining Heavens’ and ‘I Have Trod The Upward And The Downward Slope’ have a palpable melancholy without undue self-dramatisation.
A different acoustic – raggy, with some echo – cloaks the voice for Liverman’s colourful traversal of Keel’s Three Salt-Water Ballads. The unfussy directness of his storytelling makes Howells’s King David quietly compelling, and both Medtner’s Wanderer’s Night Song and Schumann’s Mondnacht have an admirable poise and clarity of intention.
Copland’s At the River is taken dangerously slowly, and comes close to feeling sluggish. But most interpretive decisions Liverman makes seem naturally right, and this is by any standards a notable debut recital. Terry Blain