Arleen Auger at USC's Hancock Auditorium

Listening to a song recorded by Arleen Auger, one might be inclined to credit the engineers for some of the apparent perfection. That any singer should be able to sustain such effortless lines, such pure and exquisitely gauged sound, so consistently, seems unbelievable.

Believe it. Saturday evening at USC, the American soprano demonstrated anew in recital her musical command of a virtually flawless voice.

And that despite singing in the quirky reverberation chamber that is Hancock Auditorium. Neither the echoes nor an odd baritone hum intermittently afflicting the second half disconcerted her.

Auger's program was an unusual gathering of lieder sets by Berg, Wolf and Schoenberg, from the period 1888-1908. She pointed the varied texts with sensitive assurance, controlled without any sense of inhibition. She ranged easily from the radiance of Schoenberg's "Waldsonne" to the chill, implacable simplicity of Wolf's "Auf ein altes Bild," finding at all points vital worlds of musical wonder.

In all, she had the deft support of pianist Irwin Gage, who accompanied with a paradoxical sort of fastidious exuberance, and made telling statements in the many little postludes.

The nearly full house was unreserved in its acclamation, and Auger responded to the standing ovations with three Richard Strauss lieder in encore.

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