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Landscape With Figures - Vocal Music Of Tom Cipullo

Release Date: 11/10/2009 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1145   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Tom Cipullo
Performer:  Paul SperryColette ValentineSheryl HenzeMary Ann Hart,   ... 
Conductor:  David Stock
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CIPULLO _The Land of Nod . . . 1 The Ecuadorian Sailors. 2 Going. 3 Rain. 4 Landscape with Figures 5 Paul Sperry (ten); 1,4 Colette Valentine (pn); 1 Mary Ann Hart (mez); 2 Read more class="ARIAL12"> Sheryl Henze (fl); 2 Tina Pelikan (va); 2 Margery Fitts (hp); 2 Monica Harte (sop); 3 Tom Cipullo (pn); 3,5 David Stock, cond; 4 Pittsburgh New Music Ens; 4 Robert Osborne (bar); 5 Benjamin Ungar (boy sop); 5 Jorge Ávila (vn) 5 ALBANY TROY 1145 (54:26 Text and Translation)

Stylistically speaking, Tom Cipullo’s splendid songs are more in the realm of Ned Rorem and David Del Tredici than that of George Crumb. Even when his accompaniments become instrumentally varied beyond the traditional piano-alone formula and become quite interesting in their own right ( The Ecuadorian Sailors, Rain , and Landscape with Figures ), it is the rhetorical power of the word that always dictates the shape of the phrases and their harmonization, and Cipullo’s choice of poetry plays straight into his strengths—an uncanny simplicity and directness of expression, a disarming sense of whimsy, and a poignant lyricism.

The Land of Nod . . . was commissioned in 1993 by that indefatigable champion of American art song, Paul Sperry, whose performance of it here is nothing short of astonishing. Given the evidence, poet Alice Wirth Gray, unconsciously or otherwise, subscribes to Lily Tomlin’s dictate that “the concept of reality is overrated.” In these poems, she is variously slapstick-funny, touching in unfathomable ways, brazenly sardonic, and culturally iconoclastic, and along the way provides Tom Cipullo with the grist for some extraordinary song-making. A master of musical allusion, Cipullo conjures up the ghosts of Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi, and Puccini, et alia at relevant moments. “On a Nineteenth-century Color Lithograph of Red Riding Hood by the Artist J.H.” is my favorite song in this all too brief cycle. It is an up to date psychosexual explication of the ancient fairy tale replete with current psychobabble, modern stage settings, and ancillary characters. It is also beyond laugh-out-loud funny—until one realizes how deeply it challenges ones dearly held cultural assumptions.

The youthfully innocent dreams of a magical place “where the heart is everything,” and their fulfillment and its aftermath in the mundane surroundings of Rockport, Maine, are chronicled in William Carpenter’s poem, The Ecuadorian Sailors , and provide Cipullo a means to show the most warmly tender of his lyrical gifts. While The Ecuadorian Sailors is concerned largely with life’s youth, Carpenter’s Rain deals with old age, its seemingly inevitable eccentricity (as seen by the younger members of the tribe), resulting, obliquely, from its longing for that very same lost youth. I won’t dwell on the remaining pieces here. This is, after all, a review, not a liner note. Suffice it to say that all of these poems test the affective range and power of composer Tom Cipullo, and in all cases he excels by pulling off the conjuror’s trick mastered by all the great writers of poem-based song from Schubert forward—the blurring of the demarcation between where the word ends and the music begins.

Paul Sperry sets a high bar as far as vocal performance is concerned, and all his colleagues on this disc meet it easily.

The sound is faultless. I can hear everything from the subtly shifting timbres of the voices to the tiniest instrumental detail, and that, coupled with the faultless diction of all the singers, makes this release an unalloyed pleasure.

FANFARE: William Zagorski
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Works on This Recording

The Land of Nod... by Tom Cipullo
Performer:  Paul Sperry (Tenor), Colette Valentine (Piano)
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
The Ecuadorian Sailors by Tom Cipullo
Performer:  Sheryl Henze (Flute), Mary Ann Hart (Mezzo Soprano), Tina Pelikan (Viola),
Margery Fitts (Harp)
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
Going by Tom Cipullo
Performer:  Monica Harte (Soprano), Tom Cipullo (Piano)
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
Rain by Tom Cipullo
Performer:  Paul Sperry (Tenor)
Conductor:  David Stock
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
Landscape with Figures by Tom Cipullo
Performer:  Robert Osborne (Baritone), Benjamin Ungar (Boy Soprano), Jorge Avila (Violin),
Tom Cipullo (Piano)
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 

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