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The Boston Globe


Music Review

Schumann to Ives, Nathan Gunn convinces

When, in his Celebrity Series recital on Friday, baritone Nathan Gunn sang “I hold no grudge” — in “Ich grolle nicht,” the pivot of Robert Schumann’s “Dichterliebe” — for once, you actually believed it. Schumann’s song cycle and Heinrich Heine’s text portray a writer who loves, loses, and then fails to convince himself that he’s OK with it. But Gunn is such an instinctively genial performer that, indeed, he didn’t seem capable of holding a grudge against anyone. Flares of anger quickly subsided; woe was kept at arm’s-length. This was a “Dichterliebe” in which the poet, rather than being in the grip of despair, regarded it with self-defensive coolness.

It was, however, vocally splendid. Gunn’s baritone is an object lesson in beautiful technique, vowels perfectly placed, the color balanced between bright and dark, consistently rich from top to bottom. After warming up through the opening set — five relatively happy love songs by Franz Schubert, all legato contentment — high notes rang free and clear. (At the piano, Julie Gunn also emphasized clarity, with a slightly percussive touch and a relish for complexity, élan increasing with the density of notes.)

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