Monday, March 4, 2013

Cleveland gushes over Edwin Crossley-Mercer

Edwin Crossley-Mercer
We've been gushing about Edwin Crossley-Mercer ever since a reader alerted us to his brilliant artistry a few years ago. We recently blogged about his long-overdue American recital debut yesterday at Baldwin Wallace University. Cleveland Plain Dealer Music Critic Donald Rosenberg, was just as impressed by the French singer and wrote this glowing review. Let's hope that other U.S. presenters add him to their calendars.
by Dan Rosenberg, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

March must be the appointed month for vocal recitals by major artists in Northeast Ohio. From last Friday through this Sunday, the region will have welcomed tenor Alek Shrader (Oberlin College), baritone Thomas Hampson (E.J. Thomas Hall) and sopranos Christine Brewer (Cleveland Institute of Music) and Deborah Voigt (Oberlin).

And there's another. In what can only be deemed a coup, the Art Song Festival at Baldwin Wallace University presented the first American recital by French baritone Edwin Crossley-Mercer on Sunday in Gamble Auditorium. We are likely to hear a great deal more of this superb artist in coming years.
Crossley-Mercer -- of Irish-French extraction -- shared the stage with Russian pianist Semjon Skigin, whose collaborations were at all times sonorous and connected to the expressive demands in the program's German, English and French songs.

The pianist interacted closely with Crossley-Mercer, whose baritone is an instrument of lustrous individuality and suppleness. He is capable of scaling the voice down to a focused whisper or projecting with stentorian force. Words are paramount to Crossley-Mercer, as are inflections that heighten the drama in each song.

Edwin Crossley-Mercer
The 30-year-old baritone, singing everything from memory, opened with works by Beethoven and Brahms. There were moments when his approach in this repertoire brought to mind the probing intellectuality and subtlety of the late German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, with whom Crossey-Mercer studied in master classes.

But these performances were no acts of imitation. Crossley-Mercer brought distinctive touches to the six odes to love and nature in Beethoven's "An die ferne geliebte,"altering vocal colors and employing physical gestures to enhance the moods.

In six songs by Brahms, Crossley-Mercer applied warmth to placid lines, dreamy nuances where the texts portray a blissful world and ecstatic potency to passages of amorous flight. Skigin's shapely partnership was key to the success of these performances, as they were when the musicians turned to afternoon's other fare.

Edwin Crossley-Mercer and Semjon Skigin perform "Autumn Leaves" ("Les feuilles mortes") :

Crossley-Mercer sang four selections from Vaughan Williams' "Songs of Travel" in crisply enunciated English that made reading the printed texts unnecessary. Turning to chansons by Faure, Debussy and Poulenc, he attained even higher levels of immediacy and idiomatic authority, especially in Debussy's "Chevaux de bois," whose carousel narrative emerged with a palpable sense of wonder and charm.

Those qualities also marked Crossley-Mercer's encores -- a debonair version of "C'est si bon" that would give Yves Montand and Dean Martin a run for their respective currencies, and "Les feuilles mortes" ("Autumn Leaves") sung in the silkiest French.

Crossley-Mercer. Remember the name. And to thank the Art Song Festival for the introduction.


  1. The performer who polishes his technique and who takes no short-cuts is the most reliable musician, because there are no short-cuts and the projected emotion of vocal technique sorts out the wheat from the chaff. This Irishman feels what he sings and he sings it as few others have been able to; he projects those feelings into the hearts of the audience. This uncommon talent of his has been now acknowledged in the States and is most pleasing to know.

  2. You'll find another review of the excellent performance here: