Nathalie Stutzman made her name singing repertory she shares with many who call themselves mezzo-sopranos. She, however, was that rarer bird, a true contralto, with the richer, darker, royal-purple timbre that is the vinho do Porto to her colleagues’ Chablis. Maestros like Seiji Ozawa and Simon Rattle have encouraged her in a parallel career as a conductor. There are two types of artists, Stutzman has said, those who make a show of how difficult their work is and those, like herself, who try to convince people that it’s not difficult at all. “I don’t want listeners to be impressed with the performance,” she remarks, “though they might notice it, but to be able to abandon themselves to the beauty of the music.” She continues to sing, even as her international stature on the podium continues to grow. On this occasion, Verdi’s seismic overture to La Forza del Destino and Tchaikovsky’s Fate-haunted Symphony No. 5 bracket Beethoven’s masterly Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, op. 37. The soloist is Alexandre Tharaud, whose discography ranges from Bach to Boulez. He’s less known abroad than he deserves to be but something of a national treasure in his native France. —M.G.
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