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Yuriy Mynenko at the Kennedy Center

By Stephen Brookes • The Washington Post • October 9, 2010

The up-and-coming Ukrainian countertenor Yuriy Mynenko flew into town on Monday, jumped into rehearsals in Tuesday, and delivered a fine and sometimes extraordinary North American debut at the Terrace Theater on Thursday night. With superb control, a subtle sense of drama, excellent taste and stunning voice, Mynenko, 31, seems poised to join the ranks of the best of the world’s countertenors.

That said, the recital (presented by Vocal Arts DC) stayed largely on the surface of the mostly-Baroque program, and only really caught fire here and there. That may have been due partly to normal debut jitters, but also to the rather dutiful and sometimes clumsy accompaniment by Gary Matthewman at the piano. The two had only met days before, and there didn’t seem to be much of the intuitive back-and-forth that lets a singer descend into the music and breathe it to life. While Mynenko’s delivery was always accomplished and exceptionally detailed — and the voice itself a thing of rare beauty — it rarely felt like the music was coming from any deep emotional core.

Until, that is, the very end of the program. The evening had stayed within a fairly narrow stylistic range (from Purcell to Vivaldi, more or less, where the bulk of the countertenor repertoire lies), with fine if heavily accented accounts of Handel’s “Va tacito”, Gluck’s “J’ai perdu mon Euridice” and others. But when Mynenko shifted into a work from his own time and language — “Farewell, o world,” by the contemporary Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov — any awkwardness vanished and the recital rose to an entirely new level. This was extraordinary singing in every way, and was followed by an equally moving a capella account of the Ukrainian national song — leaving little doubt that Mynenko is a talent to keep an eye on.

Posted on Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 11:20AM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | Comments1 Comment

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Reader Comments (1)

My name's Gary Matthewman - the pianist in the above recital. I have to start by thanking Mr Brookes for the opportunity to write this little comment in relation to his article; it's lovely to be able to do so!

Next, I have to say it was such a pleasure to be in Washington DC (I'm British), and to experience both the warm welcome of the city as a whole, and also of course that of our audience at the Kennedy Center. On a professional level, I felt honoured on two counts: i) to be making my debut at this venue as part of this series, and ii) to be working with a talent such as Yuriy's for the first time. Of course, I couldn’t agree more with Mr Brookes when he writes that he has 'superb control, a subtle sense of drama, excellent taste and stunning voice.'

My efforts didn't fare so well, but in this game we have to take the subjective rough with the smooth I guess! In this earlier repertoire, my take is to try as best I can to allow the etched-in-marble, expressive beauty of Baroque writing to emerge simply and directly, without splurging ketchup-like rubato and Romantic piano tone all over it. If that's 'dutiful' then so be it!

On the 'clumsy' front, well, like many musicians I’m sure, I'm my own fiercest critic when it come to wrong-note counting (we all try to play like edited recordings these days!), and yes, it was a horrible feeling as I clipped a few wrong notes in the Bach and in the Handel encore. I could make lame excuses about also having debut-jitters, and a body clock still sluggish through Hong Kong jetlag, but I won’t. Luckily, the big slice of our audience that gave us a standing ovation had already forgiven me.

I hope to return to this great city, concert series and venue one day soon!
November 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGary Matthewman

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