Pamela Kurau performs dynamic, diverse vocal repertoire

On Friday Sept. 7, assistant professor of music Pamela Kurau filled Wadsworth Auditorium with the sound of her operatic voice. Kurau performed a series of pieces by composers as diverse as Claude Debussy, Felix Mendelssohn and Johann Strauss.

She began with a series of folk songs from America and the British Isles arranged by Benjamin Britten, accompanied by Petar Kodzas on nylon-string guitar.

Kodzas, who was born in the former Yugoslavia, demonstrated his classical chops through a series of atypical and sometimes downright atonal arrangements. The songs ranged from the mournful and forlorn to the cheeky and humorous, the mood suggested less by the tonality of each arrangement than by its lyrics.

The first half of the program closed with a series of lyric prose poems by Debussy, sung in French and accompanied by Joseph Werner on piano. The sometimes-fluid, sometimes-choppy nature of the pieces contrasted nicely with the non-classical songs from the beginning of the performance. Kurau’s voice floated through the French words, demonstrating her skill for singing non-English languages.

After a short intermission, Kurau emerged with Werner for several renditions of the poem “Suleika” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. While Kurau planned to sing two arrangements of each verse, the pair skipped the fourth piece in order to save Kurau’s voice.

Horn player Peter Kurau came on next to accompany Kurau for two songs in German about a type of horn called the alphorn. His parts added alternately joyous and mournful airs to the pieces.

The crowd seemed to particularly enjoy this section of the performance, perhaps due to the diversity of instruments on stage. While the performances felt sparse before, the whole auditorium filled up with sound during the alphorn performances.

Kurau ended the recital on a lark, closing up her songs of love and longing with a vaudeville-style piece about being tone deaf. Throughout the performance, the audience was respectful and quiet, but with the final piece, audience members laughed along with every break and joke in the music, ending the night on a high note.

Kurau, who currently teaches at Geneseo, is a part-time professor at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. and has previously performed with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.