It has been a pleasure to watch the art of Sarah Jane Smith grow over the years. She has always been a fine musician, and her soprano voice has grown in size and flexibility, and lost most of its rather breathy tone-quality that was noticeable two years ago. Her considerable talents were admirably displayed at a diffuse program last night at Adams House.
Joining her for the first part of the recital was violinist David Hurwitz. After a nicely balanced performance of a Bach aria with obbligato, they presented Gustav Holst's Four Songs for Voice and Violin. Holst wrote these to please a friend who said she liked to sing as she fiddled, but on presenting them to her the composer was told, "I can only hum when I play." As long as two performers are necessary, Holst could have wished none better than Hurwitz and Miss Smith to present his simple, modal settings.
Next Miss Smith plunged into the thick of the lieder repertoire: Schumann, Brahms, and Hugo Wolf. She was most effective in the five songs by Wolf, combining sensitive interpretation with some stunning tones. Nun Wandre, Maria and In Dem Schatten were especially lovely. The major novelty on the program was the presence of five songs by an Argentinean composer, Ginastera. Two of his songs Tristo and Gato, stood out as being more than merely energetic. The able accompanist of the evening, Jon Thackery, showed his technical agility in Gato.
Ending the concert on a nice light-hearted note, Miss Smith sang Nor-man Shapiro's Songs from the Animal Kingdon; the texts are among the wittiest of Ogden Nash's poems. It is worthwhile following the career of Sarah Jane Smith; she is already very good, and she gets better all the time.