Soprano Dawn Upshaw and pianist Gilbert Kalish joined the SUNY Fredonia music community for a four-day residency in April made possible by a generous gift from Stanley and Elizabeth Star through the Fredonia College Foundation.
“Dawn Upshaw has captured the world’s imagination from early in her career,” commented Karl Boelter, director of the School of Music. “Her stunning recording of Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3 remains one of the best-selling classical releases ever. Her voice continues to compel us with its flawless technique and crystal-clear diction, and her commitment to the poetry of music and song has yet to be surpassed.”
From the moment the duo arrived on campus, they began engaging with students. Mr. Kalish held a piano master class, and Ms. Upshaw led a vocal master class. Together they taught a chamber music master class.
Here the dynamics of a consummate musical partnership became apparent; the artists frequently identified contrasting features to discuss, and they often agreed with each other and sometimes enjoyed displaying their conflicting opinions on approach and interpretation.
The duo visited classes: “Analysis of Song” (Prof. Gordon Root) and “American Song” (Prof. Angela Haas). As each day flew by, students remarked how they couldn’t imagine how the residency could get any better, any more impactful. During a panel discussion, professors James A. Davis (musicology), Julie Newell (opera, voice), Daniel Ihasz (voice), and Natalie Gerber (English), asked the artists about music, about their collaboration, and about their lives and careers. We explored how they found careers in commissioning composers, crossing stylistic boundaries and bringing awareness to landmark new works.
Mr. Kalish offered, “One of the principles I’ve tried to follow is to not say no to things that might seem a little frightening or challenging.” Ms. Upshaw said, “Doing different styles of music just comes from my own interests… I grew up in a house without classical music (I grew up with folk music), and this road of traveling to different styles felt organic to me. I think the bottom line is … just making sure it all rings true.”
The residency concluded with their recital in the Juliet J. Rosch Recital Hall. The concert included several works by Schubert, Ravel, Ives, Bartok and Bolcom. The program also included a world premiere by Sheila Silver, recipient of a recent Guggenheim Fellowship. Every song was delivered with immense care to the text and passionate musicianship. After an encore work by Stephen Foster, the audience drifted out on an unexpectedly high musical cloud.