by Nick Stubblefield
Ah, the music of the French: Je t'aime. Something about it has always moved me -- from the work of Ravel and Debussy, to the contemporary film scores of Yann Tiersen. But despite some peripheral familiarity, I've overlooked a little group of French composer rebels known as "Les Six," who lived in Montparnasse around 1920 and wrote music in reaction to Wagner and Debussy.
I visited Bargemusic Thursday night for the Brooklyn Art Song Society's second installment in their "Les Six" series, devoted to the work of Darius Milhaud. Bargemusic is not only a great place to hear music, but an experience unto itself as the ferry rocks back and forth with the waves of the East River. You also get good acoustics, an inviting wooden interior, and a great view of Manhattan as a backdrop to the performance.
The Brooklyn Art Song Society, now in its fifth season, specializes in poetry set to music. Artistic Director Michael Brofman accompanied soprano Justine Aronson on Milhaud's Chansons de Ronsard, Op. 223. Aronson's clear tone and sublime expressiveness lent itself beautifully to the music. While technically demanding, the real magic to this music is in its expressiveness. Whispering softs and belting louds abound. Alternatively playful, humorous, and startlingly sad, Milhaud's work takes you on an emotional rollercoaster. A personal favorite was "Tais-toi, Babillarde" ("Be still you noisy little thing"), a lightning-fast tongue twister of a tune.