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Capstone Records Soundsamples

Songs in Transit – An American Expedition
Songs in Transit (soprano)
Accompanied by the composers except Anderson, Jaffe and Mitrano - accompanied by Judith Munro de Wette (piano)
rec, Skylight Recording Studios, Belleville, NJ. No date given

Tom CIPULLO (b.1960)

Why I Wear My Hair Long [1.21]
Saying Goodbye [2.08]
The Pocketbook [4.24]
How To Get Heat Without Fire [4.48]
Lori LAITMAN (b.1955)

The Hour [2.12]
Money [1.52]

Manners [3.06]
Filling Station [3.38]
Insomnia [3.38]

Your Little Voice [1.48]
Time for Tea [2.05]
Bona Petite [3.17]
Beth ANDERSON (b.1949)

Lullaby [1.37]
Beauty Runs Faster [0.40]

Perirrhanterium [3.06]

We Are Never Alone [3.36]
Paul MORAVEC (b.1957)

I Could Call You Up [3.11]
Main Street USA [3.44]
David DEL TREDICI (b.1937)

New Year’s Eve [4.07]

For those who admire contemporary poets, living composer-pianists and adventurous stylistic cross-currents this disc may prove attractive. The focus is American, the composers a mix of well known (Moravec, Del Tredici), increasingly fêted (Laitman) and more obscure (Cipullo, Hoiby, Jaffe amongst them). The singer is also a composer and proves venturesome in accommodating these differing musical perspectives – art, stage, jazz – into her performances and in enlisting a number of the composers to add their imprimatur by accompanying here. For the record we hear Cipullo, Laitman, Hoiby, Moravec and Del Tredici. Soprano Melanie Mitrano doesn’t manage to do a George Henschel and accompany her own singing of her own songs.

Her diction is very good – some American sopranos of far greater repute would do well to listen to her – and her consonants are crisp and decisive. Her instincts are finely honed and everything she does sounds appropriately musically. This is no trudge through indigestible settings. None of the composers cleave to the far-out or to audience-baiting asperities. Cipullo writes an amusing setting of The Pocketbook (even shouting out from the keyboard) but reserves greatest weight for the most harmonically complex setting, How To Get Heat Without Fire which is also the darkest textually and takes the singer very high. I’ve reviewed Lori Laitman’s two Albany discs on this site and the brace here are new to me; Money is a decidedly theatrical affair and one can imagine it off-Broadway.

Lee Hoiby does well to set Elizabeth Bishop, an iconic American poet but a difficult one to set successfully. He catches the interrogative catch in the Filling Station and elsewhere presents a tumbling motif to underscore the fears of Insomnia. Manners is also delightfully clip-clop. I’d welcome a disc devoted to his settings. Mitrano sets a delightful and very romantic Time for Tea and even quotes the Godfather theme in Bona Petite. Beth Anderson’s Beauty Runs Faster is a vampy 1950s pop number and delicious, though her setting of Auden’s Lullaby ("Lay your sleeping head") is a damp squib, unfortunately.

Pritsker’s Perirrhanterium, to words by George Herbert, was originally written for "soprano, baritone, two rappers and Samplestra" I know what rappers are but I’ve never encountered a Samplestra. Here the performance is modified for overdubbed two sopranos and there are samples from diverse sources – Handel, Charles Mingus, African drumming and the like. I’d like to say groovy but I can’t. It’s poor stuff. Allan Jaffe’s sole example is from an opera, Moravec contributes a bold show tune and Del Tredici comes on all Liszt-like in his sole song.

Some misses here but quite a few hits. I think Hoiby is someone to watch. He has breadth and an unpretentious but clever colouristic sense. All the texts are provided, the recorded sound is excellent and the recital very worthwhile. Kudos to Mitrano for this and to Capstone as well.

Jonathan Woolf



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