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Previn: Honey And Rue; Barber: Knoxville / Battle, Previn, St. Luke's


Release Date: 10/17/1995 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 437787   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  André PrevinSamuel BarberGeorge Gershwin
Performer:  Kathleen Battle
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of St. Luke's
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 46 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Toni Morrison's words and André Previn's music sound as if they found each other a long time ago. The six settings of Honey and Rue are custom-made to go where the Battle voice takes them.

...Toni Morrison's words and André Previn's music sound as if they found each other a long time ago. That's always a good sign. They belong together, they sit well together. By all accounts, the words came first, but you'd never know. And besides, the words have their own particular music. Previn will have heard that from the moment he read them; he'll have tuned into their natural rhythm, rhyme, and reason, sought not to inhibit or impede them. The other factor will have been Kathleen Battle. The six settings of Honey
Read more and Rue are custom-made to go where the Battle voice takes them.

So, some detail. "First I'll try love" locks into the bittersweetness of the title — a 'title-song' in all but name. Its bouncy, open countenance takes a wistful turn with the line "So when winter comes ...", the dark centre of the song — Previn identifies it beautifully. "Whose house is this?" deals in feelings of not belonging. Previn in his moodiest Shostakovich mode (chill tremolando, oblique harmonies, a solo horn in isolation). "The town is lit" begins with these words: "It's been suggested: well kept lawns and/fences white porch swings and toast by the fire". The respectable face of (sub)urban living, middle America keeping up appearances. But out there, somewhere, in the town, the lonely town, the light is on, the heat is on, and life is lived in all its harsh reality. Which for Previn is a sharp, zestful, quirkily ironic scherzo, jazz-inflected, neon-lit. And then the lights go out. "Do you know him?" is the way things really are -unaccompanied, unharmonized, one voice, one truth, one faith. A classic blues invocation. To say that it sounds like Battle's own invention gives you some indication of just how well it hits the spot. "I am not, seaworthy" is an unlikely kind of sea picture, a dreamlike meditation cast around a long and very beautiful oboe cantilena. Consonant string harmonies and salon-like piano chordings lend it an air of reassuring homeliness which resonates into the final song, "Take my mother home". You might call it 'Recitative and Spiritual'. And Previn has again caught the uplift of the genre in a way that has nothing to do with pastiche and everything to do with understanding. The tune will haunt you, as it should. Trombone, clarinet and trumpet get to bend their way around it (the excellent Orchestra of St Luke's sound as if they've recruited soloists from uptown Harlem, so convincing is the inflexion): instrumentation is artfully tailored to the characters, the kith and kin of the text. The key phrase here is "I ain't free and I never will be" and the high A flat which takes us "Home" at the close leaves you in no doubt where "Home" really is. Honey and Rue repays repetition. Better yet, it leaves you wanting more...

It says a lot for Honey and Rue that it can stand up in the company of a real masterpiece: Barber's perennially affecting Knoxville: Summer of 1915. This, too, might have been written for Battle. And as she soars ecstatically to that key phrase "Now is the night one blue dew" it's hard to think of another voice whose timbre so naturally embraces the line of this beautiful score...

-- Gramophone [1/1996]
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Works on This Recording

1. Honey and rue by André Previn
Performer:  Kathleen Battle (Soprano)
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of St. Luke's
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1992 
Date of Recording: 07/1992 
Venue:  Performing Arts Center, SUNY, Purchase 
Length: 25 Minutes 58 Secs. 
Language: English 
2. Knoxville, Summer of 1915, Op. 24 by Samuel Barber
Performer:  Kathleen Battle (Soprano)
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of St. Luke's
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947-1950; USA 
Date of Recording: 07/1992 
Venue:  Performing Arts Center, SUNY, Purchase 
Length: 14 Minutes 54 Secs. 
Language: English 
3. Porgy and Bess: I loves you, Porgy by George Gershwin
Performer:  Kathleen Battle (Soprano)
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of St. Luke's
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935; USA 
Date of Recording: 07/1992 
Venue:  Performing Arts Center, SUNY, Purchase 
Length: 2 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Language: English 
4. Porgy and Bess: Summertime by George Gershwin
Performer:  Kathleen Battle (Soprano)
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of St. Luke's
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935; USA 
Date of Recording: 07/1992 
Venue:  Performing Arts Center, SUNY, Purchase 
Length: 2 Minutes 40 Secs. 
Language: English 

Sound Samples

Honey and Rue: 1. First I'll Try Love
Honey and Rue: 2. Whose House Is This?
Honey and Rue: 3. The Town Is Lit
Honey and Rue: 4. Do You Know Him ?
Honey and Rue: 5. I Am Not Seaworthy
Honey and Rue: 6. Take My Mother Home
Knoxville: Summer of 1915, op.24: It has become that time of evening
Porgy and Bess / Act 2: I loves you, Porgy
Porgy and Bess / Act 1: Summertime

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