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In My Memory - American Songs And Song Cycles / Jennings, Hopson

Release Date: 01/28/2014 
Label:  Centaur Records   Catalog #: 3296   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Libby LarsenTom CipulloLori LaitmanRichard Pearson Thomas
Performer:  Kerry JenningsAmanda Apslund Hopson
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 0 Hours 53 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

IN MY MEMORY. American Songs and Song Cycles Kerry Jennings (ten); Amanda Asplund Hopson (pn) CENTAUR 3296 (52:55)

L. LARSEN My Ántonia. CIPULLO Long Island Songs. LAITMAN The Apple Orchard. On a Photograph … PEARSON THOMAS Far Off

This is a beautiful recital. It is appropriately Read more called In My Memory, as all the songs deal with the recollection of times past. The program has been chosen with care and taste. Kerry Jennings is a light lyric tenor with an appealing sound quality. His intonation and diction are excellent, and he has a good dynamic range when called for. Jennings reminds me a little of Ian Bostridge, although without quite the latter’s volume and distinctive timbre. Most importantly, Jennings is a superb singing actor. He inhabits all these songs with sensitivity and, at times, thrilling abandon. I can’t imagine the composers on this album not being highly pleased with Jennings’s renditions. His accompanist, Amanda Asplund Hopson, is an engaging player and a supportive partner. Composer Libby Larsen has designed a brilliant versification of representative texts from Willa Cather’s novel My Ántonia. The piano accompaniment easily sets the scenes of a train ride, winter’s bleakness, and spring’s excitement. All the music has the freshness and openness of youth. Larsen portrays the child Ántonia with sprightly sounds, contrasted with the Debussy-like feeling of longing when she appears as a young woman. The music for Ántonia’s father’s suicide, dramatically appropriate after we learn he no longer plays his violin, is heart-tuggingly sad. Larsen creates an immediate contrast in the joyful dancing of “The Hired Girls,” prompting the wonderful observation from the narrator, “I thought—if not for girls like these in the world/There would be no poetry.” Jennings conveys Larsen’s text with a splendid sense of how to tell a story.

Tom Cipullo’s Long Island Songs is music saturated with Romanticism, as in the thought, “To lie awake is to live,/to sleep to die.” In “Invocation,” the melody represents the breath of two lovers which curves around their bodies. “The Odor of Pears” has a Lisztian accompaniment, expertly realized by Hopson. The cycle’s concluding song, “The Crane at Gibbs’ Pond,” explores solitude, longing, and loss heard through the crane’s “crooning.” The boy observing the crane, by song’s end, becomes the image for both poet and composer reliving the scene. Lori Laitman’s two songs possess a narrative quality reminiscent of Sondheim. The first, The Apple Orchard, uses “spring’s ephemeral cathedral” as a metaphor for a love the fails to seize the moment and thus is lost forever. Laitman composes long, melismatic vocal lines here over a resonant accompaniment. Her second setting is of an incredibly touching poem by John Wood imagining a homosexual love between two men in an old photo, taken “back when my grandparents were children.” The music has an autumnal quality with a direct gentleness characterizing the lovers, eventually depicting the loss of nearly everything about them except the photo. Jennings sustains the song’s mood with skill and judgment.

In Far Off, Richard Pearson Thomas employs sensitive effects in daring to set Cavafy’s delicate poetry. Both the first and last songs feature the pianist stroking her instrument’s strings, summoning an oriental feeling. Jennings really stretches himself to characterize the worldly wise and rather weary narrator of these poems. Cavafy’s “visions of sensual delight” require a singer who can convey a refined passion, tempering ecstasy with an observant intelligence. In the two most erotically vivid songs, “One Night” and “In Despair,” Cavafy’s voice and Jennings’s seem to merge. Far Off makes a heartrending conclusion to an elegant yet emotionally rich recital. The sound engineering is very good, with an excellent balance between Jennings and Hopson. In My Memory is a superb addition to the library of recorded American song. Kerry Jennings tells his tales with artistry that becomes more revealing on each renewed acquaintance.

FANFARE: Dave Saemann
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Works on This Recording

My Antonía by Libby Larsen
Performer:  Kerry Jennings (Tenor), Amanda Apslund Hopson (Piano)
Long Island Songs by Tom Cipullo
Performer:  Kerry Jennings (Tenor), Amanda Apslund Hopson (Piano)
The Apple Orchard by Lori Laitman
Performer:  Kerry Jennings (Tenor), Amanda Apslund Hopson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2004; USA 
Far Off by Richard Pearson Thomas
Performer:  Kerry Jennings (Tenor), Amanda Apslund Hopson (Piano)
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
On a Photograph by Lori Laitman
Performer:  Kerry Jennings (Tenor), Amanda Apslund Hopson (Piano)

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