Review: I’m Glad I’m Not a Tenor Recital. Troy Castle, baritone voice and Pei-I Wang, piano. Twelve pieces by various composers. September 26, 2021. Recital. Kaeuper Hall, Millikin University, Decatur, IL.
Published online: 15 November 2022
- Issue: Volume 62, No.2
- DOI: https://doi.org/10.18177/sym.2022.62.pll.11576
I’m Glad I’m Not a Tenor is the title of a very entertaining and sensitively-performed recital by Millikin University faculty members Dr. Troy Castle, bass-baritone, and Dr. Pei-I Wang, piano. The recital was performed on Sunday, September 26, 2021 in the University’s Kaeuper Hall, and is available for viewing in its entirety on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/CvY1ki9BtWU. The video runs one hour and sixteen minutes in length. Extensive program notes and the recital program are available.. The video and audio quality are very high, and the stage, with its warm wooden colors, is both acoustically and visually friendly to the performers and the viewer.
The recital opens with a set of four well-known Lieder: Schubert’s “Erlkönig,” “Im wunderschönen Monat Mai,” and “Ich grolle nicht” from Schumann’s Dichterliebe, and Wolf’s “Der Feuerreiter.” The Schubert finds both performers in excellent form, with Castle’s animated stage presence and clear delineation of the different characters of the story ably partnered by Wang’s galloping horses. After this, Castle welcomes the audience with charm to what must have been one of the first live concerts on campus after the worst of the pandemic. The Schumann and Wolf then follow. In the Schumann, Castle’s ringing high voice is very secure on the top pitches of “Ich grolle nicht,” while in the Wolf, a song of Wagnerian sweep, both Castle and Wang provide a wide variety of colors, with Wang as an assured and powerful partner at the keyboard. Next, the artists offer two arias from the oratorio literature, “Confutatis” from Verdi’s Requiem and “It is Enough” from Mendelssohn’s Elijah. Castle sings the Verdi’s final phrases with admirable legato, and gives a heartfelt, well-paced performance of the lengthy Mendelssohn. The program takes a comic turn with Bartolo’s blustering aria, “A un dottor della mia sorte,” from Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Before beginning, Castle speaks to the audience (comprised no doubt of many students), and with great humor and precision of description sets the stage of the aria. His animated performance, which features many colors, turn-on-a-dime comic timing, and great aplomb with the fearsome patter sections, is given extra sparkle by Wang’s brilliant accompanying. The centerpiece of the entire program, featuring the two artists at their best, however, is Finzi’s opus 13, To a Poet, a set of six songs by various poets. Once again educating his audience, Castle takes time to speak about the work, which he said requires “active listening” from the audience. No encouragement seems needed given the fine performances by Castle and Wang. Finzi’s diminuendi, wide leaps, dynamic contrasts, and heroic moments are all secure in their hands. The recital ends with five lighter pieces in English, including Britten’s familiar “Foggy, foggy, dew,” Copland’s “I bought me a cat,” and Hundley’s “Epitaph on a Wife.” However, the first and last songs in the group, Stephen Mark Kohn’s “The Senator’s Stump Speech,” and Ben Moore’s “I’m Glad I’m Not a Tenor,” deserve special praise. The battle between the singer and the pianist in the Moore is one for the ages, complete with the deployment of a Pavarottian handkerchief by Castle.
Castle’s ringing voice is strong and free throughout the lengthy program. He combines a secure top voice with bass-baritonal depth in the low range. Occasionally his [a] vowel spreads or thins out a little as he nears the top, but often this seems done for an expressive effect. Wang is an able partner in the myriad styles on this program. Castle’s timing with comic elements, ease with phrasing, and dynamic variety would not be so effective or obvious were it not for the sensitivity and skill of Wang’s playing. This recital is highly recommended.
John Nix is Professor of Voice and Voice Pedagogy at the University of Texas-San Antonio. His students have sung with the Santa Fe Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Chautauqua Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera Chorus. He was the 2006 Van Lawrence Award winner, has won grants from NIH and the Grammy Foundation, has published 36 articles, and edited or contributed to 5 books.