Dallas — Breaking away from their traditional modus operandi, the Dallas Bach Society’s recital program for soprano Anna Fredericka Poppova featured a mixture of arias by Handel and Mozart, framing a collection of obscure Scottish folk songs composed by Franz Josef Haydn. It was an interesting combination of music, but in the hands of the artist, they came together nicely to tell a cohesive story.
Poppova’s instrument is wide, flexible, and clean. Accompanied by Artistic Director James Richman on the harpsichord and violinist Thane Isaac, her sound fit neatly within the intimate setting of Ford and Cece Smith Lacy’s home on Jan. 26.
Fittingly, the set began with two arias from Handel’s Messiah. As Baroque music is the forte of this group, the execution was thorough and familiar. Poppova’s soprano was appropriately contained for the room, but rang sweetly in close coordination with the historically appropriate accompaniment.
It was the set to follow that stood out with marked uniqueness. Haydn’s Scottish songs, which Richman explains were primarily composed as quick money-makers, featured musical settings of poetry by Robert Burns and Alexander Lowes. They were traditional, folksy, and short—engaging with witty humor and wholesome storytelling. As Poppova tells it, her Scottish ancestry made these not-oft-done pieces all the more exciting to explore, which came through in her performance of them.
She was bright and expressive with the campy text, which served as welcome contrast to the weighty Italian poetry of some of the other aria selections. “Dove sono i bei momenti” from Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro was given thoughtful, colorful lines as Poppova sang with only harpsichord accompaniment.
“Ah, mio cor,” Handel’s emotionally dense and demanding aria from Alcina was given weight and effective drama, excelling the energy of the program forward. Her da capo was expressive and wrenching, with a quick-tempoed, athletic middle section. Here, I think the artists aimed to stamp the evening with their hallmark sense of artistry, which they did evidently well as patrons regathered themselves following Poppova’s interpretation.
Followed by more Scot songs with light and unassuming fare, and ending with two additional Mozart arias, the group delivered a well-rounded and adventurous program to an eager and devoted audience. It was a lovely evening that featured all the usual fineries of a Bach Society house concert—delicious nibbles, libations, lovely company, and beautiful music.
I would be interested to see more of this group’s diversity and versatility in a larger context, perhaps a fully realized concert featuring more Mozart, Haydn, and other Classical composers.