Notes and Editorial Reviews
NEW PEOPLE: Contemporary American Works for Voice, Viola, and Piano
ALBANY 1425 (59:02)
The Rain is Full of Ghosts.
Front Porch Poems.
How many works can you name for the combination of voice, viola, and piano? Yes, there are those two gorgeous songs op. 91 by Brahms. If you’re a Loeffler lover you probably know his songs for these forces. But what else is there? This disc will help you answer the question, and in gratifying ways. Of the five composers represented, only one was previously known to me (Michael Colgrass), and all the works but his are recording premieres. Colgrass’s contribution, which gives the disc its title,
, is also the only one of the five composed in the last century; the rest date from 2006 to 2012.
While many songs begin with a piano prelude, several of those in this program give the introductory material to the viola, beginning with the opening number of Daniel Powers’s
The Rain is Full of Ghosts
. At nearly eight minutes in length, “Mindful of You” it is also by far the longest song on the program, a gentle, reflective piece such as Schumann might have written in his Eusebius mood, though Powers’s style is of course far different. His three songs, set to poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay, represent the best music on the disc. Long-breathed lines, lyrical intensity, haunting moods, and sensitivity for setting words to music characterize these songs. In the third, “What Lips My Lips have Kissed,” the veiled tone of the viola perfectly reflects the gray, disconsolate mood of the poem. As Powers is also a violist, it is hardly surprising that he assigns his instrument equal footing with the vocal component.
The three numbers of Rob Deemer’s
are not for the prissy or faint of heart. The second in particular, “Bed Music,” positively wails, with the viola taking on the qualities of a saxophone in heat. All three poems are borderline X-rated material. Approach at your own risk!
Set to his own poems, the seven Colgrass songs range in character from quietly reflective to sardonic to angry to mysterious. Not all are equally successful, but the best of them offer imaginative examples of the vocal art. Enigmatic words are interwoven with wraithlike contributions from the viola in “Baby’s eyes are chocolates.” This is not a baby you would want in your home. “One Day My Shadow Said to Me” is something right out of an Inspector Clouseau movie. Imagination is also the keynote of Jonathan Santore’s third song, “Tango Violistico,” in which the viola and voice intertwine in an erotic dance. Graham Reynolds’s “Jabberwocky” is a disappointment. Considering the source of the text (Lewis Carroll), I was expecting something more humorous, something sassier and off-the-wall.
This is the Chiaroscuro Trio’s CD debut. Formed in 2010, it consists of two musicians of French heritage and one of Japanese, all now teaching at Midwestern American universities. The three vary widely in artistic appeal. Best by far is violist Aurélian Pétillot, whose rich tone and musical sensitivity are delights to the ear. Pianist Yuko Kato doesn’t have enough to do to fully showcase her abilities, but she is obviously competent. The major problem with this disc is the singing of Elizabeth Pétillot. She bills herself as a contralto, but the low notes sound like a challenge for her. In addition, the voice is small, the singing tentative, timid, and tremulous. There is little expression in her delivery, as if she were sight-reading at a conservatory exam. The slow songs plod, the lively ones miss their mark. Despite this fault, the disc can be recommended for the imaginative program and for the luscious viola playing that is a feature of nearly every song. Full texts and a program note from each composer round out an attractive, out of the ordinary, disc.
FANFARE: Robert Markow
Works on This Recording
The Rain is Full of Ghosts by Daniel Powers
Erotica by Rob Deemer
New People by Michael Colgrass
Front Porch Poems by Jonathan Santore
Jabberwocky by Graham Reynolds
The Rain Is Full of Ghosts: No. 1. Mindful of You
The Rain Is Full of Ghosts: No. 2. Summer to Your Heart
The Rain Is Full of Ghosts: No. 3. What Lips My Lips Have Kissed
Erotica: No. 1. To Orgasms
Erotica: No. 2. Bed Music
Erotica: No. 3. On Reading Poorly Transcribed
New People: No. 1. Baby's eyes are chocolates
New People: No. 2. One day my shadow said to me
New People: No. 3. talk computer
New People: No. 4. Earth is the theater
New People: No. 5. Skyscrapers are trees of the city
New People: No. 6. Starlings compose
New People: No. 7. Goodnight Day
Front Porch Poems: No. 1. Fairies on My Hilltop
Front Porch Poems: No. 2. A Winter Night
Front Porch Poems: No. 3. Tango Violistico
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