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David Ashley White: As You Set Out For Ithaka

White / Jones / Weems
Release Date: 06/11/2013 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1419   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  David Ashley White
Performer:  Melanie SonnenbergWayne BrooksTimothy HesterDaryl Robinson,   ... 
Conductor:  Betsy Cook Weber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moores School Concert ChoraleWomen Of The Moores School Concert Chorale
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



WHITE Two Choral Sketches 1. Homages 2. Five Glimpses 3. Fear no more the heat o’ th’ sun 4. Two Choruses from This Bitterly Beautiful Land 5. To Hear in Rapture 6. Aria from Songs & Dances for a Celebration. Read more class="SUPER12b">7 Carols for the Nativity 8. Phantasy & Toccata 9. From The Blue Estuaries. 10 As you set out for Ithaca 11 1,4,5,8 Betsy Cook Weber, cond; 1,4,5,8 Moores School Concert Chorale; 2,11 Melanie Sonnenberg (mez); 2 Wayne Brooks (va); 2,3,9,11 Timothy Hester (pn); 4,5 Daryl Robinson (pn); 5 Carly Jones (cl); 6 Timothy Jones (bs-bar); 6 Nancy Weems (pn); 7 Karen Wylie (a-sax); 7 Rita Porfiris (va); 7 Ruth Tomfohrde (pn) ALBANY 1419 (68:47 Text and Translation)


Hearing the first few phrases of the music of David Ashley White, my first reaction was, “Another John Rutter wannabe!” Not that that would necessarily be a bad thing, gorgeous as the music of Rutter is—indeed, the opening Two Choral Sketches is very reminiscent not only of Rutter’s style, but also of his level of inspiration. However, the second work, Homages, a song cycle for mezzo-soprano, viola, and piano, demonstrated that White has his own voice, albeit generally a very tonal one. The long opening viola solo of the work was profoundly moving, and wonderfully set the mood for the texts of the 17th-century metaphysical English poets, John Donne and George Herbert. The third piece of the set is actually an interlude that quotes Brahms’s Geistliches Wiegenlied, which does not seem at all out of place in this context.


White obtained an Associate of Arts degree from Del Mar College, a BM in oboe performance and a MM in composition from the University of Houston, and completed his studies with a DMA from the University of Texas at Austin. He is currently director of the University of Houston Moores School of Music, whose ensembles I have praised in previous reviews. He is perhaps best known for his sacred music, although the present recital focuses on the secular side of his art.


Five Glimpses for solo piano is the earliest work in the recital, deriving from a 1972 theory assignment. Originally comprising only a solitary glimpse, as it were, the composer added four more of them at the encouragement of his former composition teacher, Michael Horvit. The piece is an exquisite assemblage of miniatures, tonal, but with some rather piquant sonorities en route . The second movement of the suite, for instance, focuses on the interval of the tritone, and seems based on the whole-tone scale overall. With Fear no more the heat o’ th’ sun for women’s chorus and piano, we return to Rutter’s aesthetic in this gently lyrical setting of Shakespeare’s funeral dirge from Cymbeline. The next choral work, two choruses from This Bitterly Beautiful Land, sounds distinctly more American than English, and adds a clarinet to the chorus and piano to beautiful effect. I don’t know why more choral composers haven’t thought of this combination, but it works exceedingly well, at least in White’s hands. The superb rendition of the clarinet part by Carly Jones enhances the effect, of course, and the well-prepared chorus is ably led by its conductor, Betsy Cook Weber, whose tribute concert of this composer’s works ultimately led to the production of the present CD.


To Hear in Rapture is a song cycle comprising but two poems by American poets, William Jay Smith and David Bergman. The two settings evoke feelings of nostalgia and remembrance. The Aria from Songs & Dances for a Celebration combines somewhat unusually the alto saxophone with the viola and piano, a lovely combination to be sure, given the similar ranges of two instruments, each of which is endowed with a singing quality. The work is based upon the composer’s hymn tune Rubric for Good Friday and captures a mood of tranquility and solemn beauty.


With Phantasy & Toccata we return to a work for solo piano, written for the composer’s longtime friend Timothy Woolsey, a faculty member of the Texas State University in San Marcos. Its opening chords constitute the most dissonant music heard on the entire CD, and provide a glimpse into another facet of this composer’s craft. This more tonally advanced work, secure in its craftsmanship and inspiration, proves that this composer is no Johnny-one-note in his approach to composition. Its lively second section also provides a welcome contrast to the largely leisurely tempos of the other works. I am quite sure that were other pianists to hear this work, superbly presented by Timothy Hester, many of them would add it to their repertory.


The CD is filled out with further ingratiating choral works, including Carols for the Nativity and three selections from White’s choral cycle The Blue Estuaries, and closes with an extended song-rhapsody, As you set out for Ithaca, sung by Melanie Sonnenberg, who is possessed of a warm, luxuriant voice. According to the composer, the voyage described in the text can be a metaphor for life, and even for his own compositional journey. All I can say is that I wish David Ashley White well on his continuing voyage, and trust that it will produce many more works of the beauty of those contained on this CD. Strongly recommended to anyone who has been interested enough to read this review to the end.


FANFARE: David DeBoor Canfield
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Works on This Recording

1. Choral Sketches (2) by David Ashley White
Conductor:  Betsy Cook Weber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moores School Concert Chorale
Period: 20th/21st Centuries 
Written: USA 
2. Homages by David Ashley White
Performer:  Melanie Sonnenberg (Mezzo Soprano), Wayne Brooks (Viola), Timothy Hester (Piano)
Period: 20th/21st Centuries 
Written: USA 
3. Glimpses (5) by David Ashley White
Performer:  Timothy Hester (Piano)
Period: 20th/21st Centuries 
Written: USA 
4. Fear no more the heat o' th' sun by David Ashley White
Conductor:  Betsy Cook Weber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Women Of The Moores School Concert Chorale
Period: 20th/21st Centuries 
Written: USA 
5. Choruses (2) from This Bitterly Beautiful Land by David Ashley White
Performer:  Daryl Robinson (Piano), Carly Jones (Clarinet)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moores School Concert Chorale
Period: 20th/21st Centuries 
Written: USA 
6. To Hear in Rapture by David Ashley White
Performer:  Timothy Jones (Baritone), Nancy Weems (Piano)
Period: 20th/21st Centuries 
Written: USA 
7. Songs & Dances for a Celebration: Aria by David Ashley White
Performer:  Karen Wylie (Alto Saxophone), Rita Porfiris (Viola), Ruth Tomfohrde (Piano)
Period: 20th/21st Centuries 
Written: USA 
8. Carols for the Nativity by David Ashley White
Conductor:  Betsy Cook Weber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moores School Concert Chorale
Period: 20th/21st Centuries 
Written: USA 
9. Phantasy and Toccata by David Ashley White
Performer:  Timothy Hester (Piano)
Period: 20th/21st Centuries 
Written: USA 
10. From The Blue Estuaries by David Ashley White
Conductor:  Betsy Cook Weber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moores School Concert Chorale
Period: 20th/21st Centuries 
Written: USA 
11. As you set out for Ithaka by David Ashley White
Performer:  Melanie Sonnenberg (Mezzo Soprano), Timothy Hester (Piano)
Period: 20th/21st Centuries 
Written: USA 

Sound Samples

2 Choral Sketches: No. 1. Beauty Is in the Garden of Love
2 Choral Sketches: No. 2. Oliver Cromwell
Homages: No. 1. Reflections - O might those sighs
Homages: No. 2. Verture
Homages: No. 3. Remembrances
Homages: No. 4. This is my play's last scene
5 Glimpses: No. 1. Canticle
5 Glimpses: No. 2. March
5 Glimpses: No. 3. Night Song
5 Glimpses: No. 4. Burlesque
5 Glimpses: No. 5. Elegy
Fear no more th' heat o' the sun
This Bitterly Beautiful Land: I will arise
This Bitterly Beautiful Land: Oh, my lovin' brother
To Hear in Rapture: No. 1. Journey to the Interior
To Hear in Rapture: No. 2. A Dream of Nightingales
Songs and Dances for a Celebration: Aria
Carols for the Nativity: No. 1. Blessed May Thou Be
Carols for the Nativity: No. 2. A Song to Sing
Phantasy and Toccata
The Blue Estuaries: Evening-Star
The Blue Estuaries: I Saw Eternity
The Blue Estuaries: To Be Sung on the Water
As you set out for Ithaka

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