Vocalist Sandra Maytan to perform ballads by Franz Shubert

Courtesy Photo / pavellasmusic.com
Sandra Maytan, GVSU Professor, will be performing this Friday at the Cook-DeWitt Center

Courtesy Photo / pavellasmusic.com Sandra Maytan, GVSU Professor, will be performing this Friday at the Cook-DeWitt Center

Patrick Nothaft

A young, blond woman stands on the stage of the vacant Cook-DeWitt Center auditorium accompanied only by a pianist at her side. She takes a deep breath and starts singing softly, like a mother cradling a child in her arms.

The piano that began the piece with a melody of whole and half notes has increased the tempo and now rolls out eighth and sixteenth notes to match the increased volume and speed of the vocal delivery.

The singer’s ability to hit and maintain high notes is reminiscent of famous operas singers.

Before they finish their rehearsal, pianist Ryan Stumpo remarks that the cavernous auditorium is perfect for a vocal performance. Mezzo-soprano Sandra Maytan agrees.

The duo will perform at 8 p.m. on Friday in the Cook-DeWitt Center.

The free concert, open to the public, will feature 11 classical ballads arranged by Austrian composer Franz Schubert.

The lyrical content of the ballads comes from a variety of German folk tales Schubert set to music.

Maytan said although the songs are melodic and known by German children, their themes contain elements of pain, enchantment, longing and desire.

The set’s third song draws its lyrics from German poet Matthaus von Collin’s “The Dwarf,” which tells the tale of a dwarf and a queen who fall in love but are separated when the queen chooses to remain with the king. Unhappy, the queen leaves the king and returns to the dwarf. The two lovers sail away together. However, the dwarf is overcome by feelings of grief, joy and self-loathing, so he strangles the queen, buries her at sea and never makes landfall again.

“In ‘The Dwarf,’ ugliness and low social status are not transfigured by love, but are its very foundation,” Maytan said. “Punishment is not deserved for breaking social law but for observing it.”

Maytan, who has been a member of GVSU’s Music Department since the Fall 2010 semester, will use three distinct voices in von Collins’ poem to represent the three characters: the dwarf, the queen and the narrator.

Although Maytan will sing each ballad in her native German tongue, programs containing descriptions and English translations of each song will be available at the concert for those not fluent in the language.

Stumpo said the concert offers a good opportunity to see how a German-born singer approaches a distinctly German piece.

“This music is founded in her culture,” said the GVSU piano professor. “Her understanding is natural and not learned. The diction and pronunciation will be spot on.”

Before moving to the U.S., Maytan studied music education, piano and voice in Germany.

She has performed with Indiana’s LaPorte Symphony Orchestra, and conductor Phil Bauman said Maytan has a “riveting voice.”

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