In some ways, Ruth Golden's recital Saturday evening in Ramo Auditorium at Caltech seemed like a USC reunion. The young soprano is a USC graduate, as are her capable accompanist Levering Rothfuss and guest cellist Michael Mathews, and there were USC alums throughout the audience.
Golden also offered a new piece by Byron Adams, yet another former USC student. Happily for all concerned, though, the occasion was not simply a display of school spirit, for Adams' "Nocturne" proved a powerful lyric statement.
It was also a strong ensemble effort, intertwining Golden's voluptuous voice with Mathews' firm playing in long, surging lines. There are neo-modal intimations of Barber in "Nocturne," and Adams bursts into melismatic raptures on key words like many another composer, but the effect is utterly convincing in performance.
With a brooding, Whitmanesque poem by Ursula Vaughan Williams, "Nocturne" was as intense as Golden got Saturday. Her songs stuck resolutely to love interests, and never despairingly.
The vocal and interpretive perfection of the opening phrases of "En Sourdine," the first of five songs by Faure, set an impossible standard, but one Golden came close to maintaining. She sang with radiant, seamless ease in all registers and pointed her texts with unobtrusive intelligence.
Her three Strauss lieder were in much the same vein, treated with wide-eyed, engaging freshness. Her French-dominated program also included three songs by Bizet and the "Air de Bijoux" from "Faust."
Two Handel arias, to which Mathews contributed handsomely, and the "Song to the Moon" from "Rusalka" completed the scheduled agenda. A standing ovation from the partisan crowd resulted in the adding of two encores.