Concert Review: Sahar Nouri, piano

Iranian pianist, Sahar Nouri, recently graduated from the University of Michigan School of Music with a specialist degree, after studying collaborative piano with the esteemed Martin Katz. She received her master's degree from Arizona State University, and has played at prestigious summer programs such as SongFestAspen Music Festival, and The Music Academy of The West in Santa Barbara. She will be joining Utah Opera in the 2012-2013 season as a young artist pianist coach.

Sahar Nouri, recently performed her final recital at the University of Michigan School of Music on April 7th at 2pm in Britton Recital Hall in the Moore Building, and I was privileged enough, not only to watch it streaming on Ustream (which you can watch here), but also to obtain a beautiful recording of it, which I fully intend to leave at WCBN for everyone to share for our listeners.

The emotional sweep through which Sahar led the audience sparked my imagination again and again during the concert. I could hear the plinking of rain, the burbling streams, the howling winds, and the hooves of racing horses so clearly, without needing her to explain a thing. Listening to Sahar play, I was impressed by the simultaneous control of the music, and the openness expressed through her playing. The subtlety with which Sahar controlled the balance and followed the singers was so comforting; as an educated audience member, I never had to worry about what I was hearing, and could truly relax, which is a rarer occurrence than you would think. And, I admit, sometimes my mind has drifted during concerts, but during Sahar's recital I felt completely enthralled every moment.

Although I wasn't able to attend the concert in-person, the live-stream made it totally accessible, and it is something that I encourage any classical musician to do for their recital or performance. 
Sahar's program was very well-planned, and I was absolutely delighted to see the singers with whom she collaborated. Here's the program:

  1. Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
    1. Auf Flügeln des Gesanges
    2. Allnächtlich im Traume seh' ich dich
    3. Die Liebende schreibt
    4. Neue Liebe
  2. Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
    • Dicterliebe
      1. Im wunderschönen Monat Mai
      2. Aus meinen Tränen sprießen
      3. Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne
      4. Wenn ich in deine Augen seh'
      5. Ich will meine Seele tauchen
      6. Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome
      7. Ich grolle nicht
      8. Und wüßten's die Blumen, die kleinen
      9. Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen
      10. Hör' ich das Liedchen klingen
      11. Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen
      12. Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen
      13. Ich hab' im Traum geweinet
      14. Allnächtlich im Traume seh' ich dich
      15. Aus alten Märchen winkt es
      16. Die alten, bösen Lieder
    1. Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
      1. Der Wanderer an den Mond
      2. Die Taubenpost
      3. Wandrers Nachtlied
      4. Auf der Bruck
    2. Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)
      1. No word from Tom...Quietly, Night (from The Rake's Progress)
    3. William Bolcom (b. 1938)
      1. Toothbrush Time
      2. Amor
      3. Waitin
      4. George

    The set by Felix Mendelssohn, performed with soprano Amy Petrongelli, was very new to me, and really set the tone of intimacy for the entire recital. After talking to Sahar, I found out that above all else, she wanted to start with "Auf Flügeln des Gesanges," because the entire idea of her recital was to "take the audience away on wings of song."

    If I had a choose a favorite set (which oh my goodness is really hard), I'd have to say that hearing the entirety of the Dichterliebe played with such sensitivity, and such nuance in regards to baritone Jean Bernard Cerin was a very special experience, and not something that a lot people are willing to commit the time and emotional energy to.

    The Schubert set, sung by baritone Jonathon Lasch, was the first from which I had heard most of the songs, and "Auf der Bruck" especially was positively explosive. The amount of sensitivity to articulation that Sahar achieved, even within a single run of notes, was mind-blowing.

    The aria from The Rake's Progress, sung by soprano Anne Jennifer Nash, popped out the texture brilliantly, and it was evident that Sahar had the piece firmly in her body as she played it. Over the winter semester, Sahar was the coach and pianist for the University's production of 'The Rake's Progress'.

    The Bolcom set that Sahar played with mezzo-soprano Sarah Davis, was not only fun to listen to, but fun to watch. Both the singer and pianist seemed to simply be having fun up on stage, and they were able to engage the audience completely.

    If I could say one thing about this concert, it would be about how tangible the energy of the performance was, both via the internet, and in the audio recording. Sahar and each singer created a beautiful sense of intimacy with the audience, very much like how I imagine Schumann and his band of friends would have when the Dichterliebe would have been performed. I never felt like she and the singers were performing for themselves, but they were truly performing for their audience, to share something special with the audience, and to give an absolutely professional recital. I can't wait to share this recording with others.

    Very soon you will get a complete transcript/audio of an interview that I conducted with Sahar, as well, where we really get down to what it means to collaborate, and what the most important aspects of being a performer really are. Watch for more concert reviews and interviews on my own show, and "Dead White Guys" as well. Stay tuned!

    Heidi Madagame, mezzo-soprano, BM Performance from University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance