Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Eunice Poulos Sings Piaf at Merkin Concert Hall, NYC 12/7/08

An imaginative and inspired program including both iconic and obscure Piaf songs. To her credit, classical soprano Eunice Poulos didn’t try to out-Piaf Piaf. The Little Sparrow imbued most of what she did with a lot of brass and sass; Poulos’ interpretation required that she simply remain in legit mode, which she did with a pure, clear tone if not a lot of emotional variation from one song to another. But her unabashed enthusiasm for the material, and her terrific backing band, were impossible to resist. Pianist Mitchell Vines turned in a marvelously nuanced and sensitive solo reading of Poulenc’s Improvisation No. 15 in C Minor (which the composer dedicated to Piaf), along with an absolutely riveting take on the somewhat noir cabaret number Padam Padam and the other upbeat numbers that closed the show – in fact, by the time they’d reached that point, the whole band was just as caught up in the drama and emotion of the songs as the crowd. The rhythm section of Rex Benincasa on drums, percussion and bells and bassist John Loehrke was poised and subtle, with accordionist Uri Sharlin (of Pharaoh’s Daughter and others) gracefully supplying the afternoon’s most haunting tonalities.

 

Billed as “La Mome Piaf [Kid Piaf]: The Life and Work of Edith Piaf,” the vividly narrated program didn’t follow any kind of career trajectory, although related songs were frequently paired. Je T’Attends (Waiting for You), the Charles Aznavour cabaret song, stopping just short of camp, was paired with a stripped-down, almost whispery La Vie En Rose, just voice and accordion. The sarcastic come-on Milord paired off with one of Piaf’s more iconic numbers, La Foule (The Crowd), which closed the show on a rousingly dramatic note. For an encore, Poulos and Vines had selected the strikingly brief, impressionistic La Grenouilliere (The Frog Pond), a pensive ode to an island in the middle of the Seine that served as a popular date spot during the 1930s. Francophones might take exception to Poulos’ delivery – she rolls her R’s, a l’espagnole – but the performance was rich with the longing that sometimes spills over into outright anguish, which continues to earn Piaf new devotees with every passing year.

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December 7, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments