MUSIC REVIEW : Baird and Fisk Survey Spanish Songs at UCLA


Perhaps the combination of soprano and guitar and Spanish song sounds like an irresistible one, but Sunday night in Schoenberg Hall at UCLA, when soprano Julianne Baird joined guitarist Eliot Fisk for such a program, it didn’t seem so.

Not that these artists failed in dispatching the goods with a thorough professionalism and, even, enthusiasm. Just that the evening’s pleasures turned out to be decidedly slight.

A number of factors contributed to this. For one thing, the range of the 19 songs on the program--by 16th- and 17th-Century composers Fuenllana, Mudarra, Hidalgo and Sances and 20th-Century Gerhard, Ginastera and Rodrigo--was quite small. All were simple in style and direct in effect, based on Spanish folksong or dance idioms, and short. They did not so much resonate off one another as they did reiterate.


The absence of printed texts aided this impression, though the performers offered brief spoken synopses in compensation.

What’s more, Baird, whose expertise apparently centers around Baroque opera and sacred music, showed no special understanding of Spanish style. She sang these songs like a New Englander.

The highlight of the concert became, then, Fisk’s two solo interludes in pieces originally intended for keyboard. In four otherwise unidentified Scarlatti sonatas and in Albeniz’s “Granada” and “Asturias,” the Segovia protege revealed a technique both commanding and fluid, which allowed him to project the music with drive, when needed, and with textural clarity, ease and melodic focus.

Baird’s soprano proved fluent, resourceful and evenly regulated, though somewhat dry in the softer dynamics. She phrased elegantly, ornamented delicately and took vocal leaps with grace and flair. Her pronunciation sounded square, however, and nowhere did she capture the perfume and spice, the sultriness and abandon under the surface of this music.

Her restraint worked best in Ginastera’s sinister lullaby, “Arrorro,” her virtuosity in the Rodrigo’s bounding “De los alamos vengo.” Fisk accompanied, mostly in his own transcriptions, with casual energy.