Dallas — The Blue Candlelight Music Series presents major artists in recital in a beautiful private home, although the concert on Friday was a departure in that they presented two young and promising artists who are at an early stage of their careers: soprano Carelle Flores and pianist Roman Salyutov.
Flores, who was a semifinalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, has made significant progress since the last time I heard her. The voice is still a little uneven, with a top that lacks the creamy mellowness of the rest of the voice. In fact, the lower voice is beginning to take on a mezzo quality.
This was especially noticeable in her performance of “Una voce poco fa” from Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. This role was originally written for a contralto but is frequently sung by mezzo and soprano voices, even in Rossini’s day.
She over sang Puccini’s gorgeous “Chi il bel sogno de doretta” from his operetta La Rondine. This aria is best known as a showpiece for singers who can float the spinning pianissimo line that goes up to a high C. Flores demonstrated that she has a solid high C, but she sang the phrase at top volume. It sounded strange to hear it sung so loudly. She did much better with “Oh, quante volte, oh quante!” from Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi.
Her best singing came in a performance of “Two Vocalises” by Alexander Rom, the Chorus Master for The Dallas Opera and the teacher of Flores (and dozens of other fine singers). These works showed a mastery of compositional technique. His compositional voice is definitely neo-romantic but it certainly doesn’t sound harmonically old-fashioned. He has a fresh take on tonality that harkens back to Rachmaninoff and Puccini, but sounds like neither composer. In an era when composers write in an international style, there is a Russian flavor to his music, which is quite refreshing to hear.
In these selections, Salyutov proved to be an excellent collaborative pianist. He was always with Flores and never covered her, even in the big moments.
When he took his solo turn, it was a different matter. There is no doubt that he has a formidable technique and he mostly played big showpieces by Franz Liszt. However, his constant use of the sustaining pedal turned the fast passagework, which he tossed off with ease, into a blur of sound.
In addition, he tends to overplay the piano, delivering huge quadruple forte passages that he approaches too quickly and extends at the same level for too long.
For example, he gave a much too forceful reading of Liszt’s Transcendental Étude “Harmonies du soir” (“Harmonies of the Night”). This is a subtler piece than the others in the series. The composer is working with harmonies that look forward to the impressionists and is the most thoughtful of all the études in the series. Likewise, Chopin’s Barcarolle, Op. 60, frequently lost the rocking motion that is so distinctive of the form in a wall of sound.
However, the comments above are errors commonly made by many young pianists. You need only to sit through piano competitions, such as The Cliburn or the newest one named for superstar Olga Kern, to hear young pianists make all these same mistakes.
Salyutov has all the tools needed for a big career. His technical mastery is quite evident and his musical instincts are sound. In the songs, he showed that he is capable of subtle playing and has the control over keeping the piano alive, even in the softest passages. Once he brings the abilities he displayed as an accompanist to his solo playing, he will have the complete package.