Harmonium, a song cycle for soprano and piano on poems by Wallace Stevens was written in 1951. He selected 20 of the 85 poems in Harmonium, reordered them to suit his own needs and set them to music as an hour-long cycle. It is one of the major 20th century achievements in this classic form and this is a world premiere recording.
“To be sure, the demands of this cycle—with regard to intelligent musicianship as well as sheer vocal agility and beauty of tone—are great. There are not many sopranos capable of truly mastering it, and Sherry Overholt is to be congratulated for even taking on such a challenge. On the other hand, pianist Joshua Pierce is an experienced veteran in meeting the demands of 20th- century American music, fromRead more Nicolas Flagello to John Cage. He has a long history of involvement with the music of Persichetti, and he projects the details of his contribution with ease and aplomb—and far more effectively than the pianist on the Arizona recording. In this work the piano is an equal partner, not an accompaniment, and its importance is acknowledged by its prominence in the recording balance. In fact, I suspect that listeners new to the work will find themselves “grabbed” by some of the piano parts before they are captivated by the vocal lines… In any event, this new release— is a milestone in the history of American music on recordings. I would go so far as to assert that Harmonium is arguably the greatest American song cycle.” -- Walter Simmons, Fanfare Magazine [May/June 2013] Read less
A significant work in a disappointing performanceApril 30, 2013By W. Craig (Broomfield, CO)See All My Reviews"Since the song cycle has never been an American favorite, its somewhat surprising that three major American composers produced big cycles in the early fifties. Coplands Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson and Barbers Hermit Songs are well-known to singers and audiences, but Persichettis Harmonium is much less familiar, for good reason. Its duration of 1 hour mitigates against performance; it is also very demanding musically and technically, and Wallace Stevens poems are abstruse and difficult. But I think those who know it would view it as a masterpiece, equaling or surpassing the Copland and Barber cycles, and it deserves to be better known. This album claims to be the world premiere recording, but its not. There was a recording made in the seventies by U. of Arizona faculty members, which, despite the composers presence, was not very good. I wish the current recording were better. To me it sounds to have been done quickly, without time for the music to settle in. It is mostly very accurate, though there are some wrong notes and some imprecise pitch from Overholt. Unfortunately, her top register is not good, and the high B and C in Domination of Black are excruciating. Pierces playing is very accurate, though he sounds uncomfortable with his many slow solo passages and consistently rushes them. Tempos are often wrong. Persichetti provided precise metronome marks throughout, and they are often ignored. Slow songs tend to be too fast, and the fast songs are in a generic rapid tempo, while the composer requests finer gradations of speed. Dynamics are often ignored as well, especially at the soft end of the spectrum, where Persichetti often lives. Overholt entirely disregards the composers directions for specific vocal colors - coldly, warmly, intense, delicately, veiled tone, etc. The performance will give one a fair idea of this beautiful and powerful work, but there is certainly room for a better one."Report Abuse