“The program also featured the mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, in lovely voice, singing Henri Dutilleux’s “Le Temps l’Horloge” song cycle, completed in 2009, haunting music that retains refined French impressionist colorings while speaking a boldly modernist language. She also sang an alluringly sensual account of Ravel’s “Shéhérazade.””
“Chemistry between Leonard and Nézet-Séguin truly kicked in with Ravel’s Sheherazade, a vocal triptych whose exotic texts — at turns fantastical, soulful and toxic — received incredibly specific orchestral support with the always-charismatic Leonard performing the three songs as a series of fully-developed characters.
Has she ever been this “on”? Most touching of all was the final song, “L’Indifferent,” about off-handed romantic rejection from a passerby, conveyed by Leonard with a combination of gravity, disappointment, and dignity that made you wish you were the one handing her the bouquet of flowers after the piece was finished.”
“Next on the program was Henri Dutilleux’s song cycle “Le temps l’horloge.” Joining Seguin and the orchestra onstage was mezzo-soprano, Isabel Leonard, lending her interpretation to the first complete performance of this work at Carnegie Hall.
Softly holding phrases, such as the word “hollow,” to create an echo and imply the presence of the titular mask, the mystery held by this image was musically highlighted by the dissonant orchestral bloom set to the phrase “Up to this green star, to this Visage…” The narrator’s approach is answered by a crashing from the cymbals, resulting in a few short measures of fearful ornaments from Leonard before she resumed the text.”
“In the second song, “Le masque,” Leonard brought a fluid line and polished tone to a dream vision of the poet confronting a huge, enigmatic mask in the sky. She muttered and occasionally soared through “Le dernier poème” (The Last Poem), as wheezing string chords and timpani going bump in the night evoked a bitter loneliness.”
New York Classical Review