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Eastman American Music Series Vol 5 - Hodkinson, Maccombie

Release Date: 02/24/1998 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 261   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Bruce MacCombieSydney HodkinsonStanley Walden
Performer:  Renée FlemingRichard BadoRobert SylvesterPhilip West,   ... 
Conductor:  Sydney Hodkinson
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Gee, Jan DeGaetani and Renée Fleming on the same disc. Like the composers and the other performers hereon, they share the Eastman connection. This marks the fifth volume of the "Eastman American Music Series" on Albany, which series has already provided valuable additions to the catalog. If this statement sounds familiar, it may be because I virtually stole it from my review of "Eastman American Music Series, Volume 2" (Fanfare 21:2) of only eight months ago.

Fleming studied at Eastman before her big Metropolitan Opera break, and made this recording of Bruce MacCombie's (b. 1943) Leaden Echo Golden Echo in 1983. The piece sets two texts by Gerard Manley Hopkins. MacCombie later rescored it for
Read more chamber orchestra. I can hear why he felt the need to do so, given the wide-ranging colorations demanded from the piano. The first song begins with an accelerating repeated bass note in the piano, after which the soprano enters on a long note over a rapid piano arpeggio. Initially the tempo is loose, recitativelike. This section's later recurrences provide a kind of pivot point for the strophic structure of the setting. Golden Echo gets a livelier treatment through half its text. The second half echoes the first poem and so receives a similar setting. MacCombie's awareness of the sound of Hopkins's poetry, with its long-breathed line and additive alliteration, comes out clearly in the reflective details of the music. His is a rich, chromatically tonal harmonic language, and he has a strong sense of sound structural. 1 admire these songs a great deal, though they take a somewhat too dramatic path for my tastes. Fleming does a good job in a high tessitura, only with some occasional thinness in sustained high notes. Richard Bado captures the composer's complex colorations while remaining a sympathetic accompanist to the voice.

As a member of the "Jan DeGaetani Could Do No Wrong" club, I'm once again delighted to receive more of her recordings of diverse work, like Alte Liebeslieder Book IV (1981). Sydney Hodkinson (b. 1934) employs a light, line-oriented touch, for the most part, matching the tone of these six short poems by Bill Knott. At times—as in the almost terrified setting of "you see/ The stone face of your solitude being piled slowly"—he's very heavy-handed and quite misses the mark. Nevertheless, on the whole, his delicate presentations sit well. His style blends some of Barber's nuance and gesture in vocal writing with a more timbre-driven, rhythmic vitality more closely akin to Wolpe in purely instrumental passages. The performance from 1982 captures this apparent duality nicely.

Stanley Walden's (b. 1932) Some Changes also features DeGaetani, in songs on texts of June Jordan. For voice and electric clarinet, this cycle remains unfortunately mired in pop-song pastiche through the entirety of "What Happens" and "Juice of a Lemon on the Trail of Little Yellow" (the latter "sung in Calypso" à la Belafonte). In "For Somebody to Start Singing" an alternating repeated verse is declaimed through the electric clarinet, distorted as though through a malfunctioning megaphone. The live performance of these songs suggests moderate stage action, for some of the sounds produced require movement outside the normal scope of singing or clarineting. Two short episodes, "Halleluja" and "Celebration," separate the first and last of the songs from the rest; these two interludes involve amplifier feedback and hand bells that resonate in the performers' mouths. I liked these two sections better than the songs themselves. This disc shares a high quality of production and performance with the others of the Eastman series that I've heard, and in its program makes available music that deserves to be heard. Once again, I commend Eastman's collaboration with Albany in this series.

- Robert Kirzinger, Fanfare Read less

Works on This Recording

Leaden Echo, Golden Echo by Bruce MacCombie
Performer:  Renée Fleming (Soprano), Richard Bado (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1989 
Date of Recording: 09/08/1983 
Venue:  Eastman Theater, Rochester, New York 
Length: 17 Minutes 2 Secs. 
Language: English 
Alte Liebeslieder, Book 4 by Sydney Hodkinson
Performer:  Robert Sylvester (Cello), Philip West (Oboe), John H. Beck (Percussion),
Robert Spillman (Piano), Jan DeGaetani (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Sydney Hodkinson
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1981; USA 
Date of Recording: 02/21/1982 
Venue:  Eastman Theater, Rochester, New York 
Length: 23 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Language: English 
Some Changes by Stanley Walden
Performer:  Stanley Hasty (Electric Clarinet), Jan DeGaetani (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Date of Recording: 09/22/1982 
Venue:  Kilbourn Hall, Rochester, New York 
Length: 19 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Language: English 

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