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CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS

Stefan WOLPE (1902-1972)
The Music of Stefan Wolpe - Volume 5
Lazy Andy Ant (1947) (Text by Helen Fletcher) [18:08]
Patrick Mason (narrator); Zac Garcia (Andy)
Wendy Buzby (The Judge); Mathew Whitmore (The Anteater)
Quattro Mani (Susan Grace and Alice Rybak), (pianos)
Suite for Marthe Krueger (1940) [22:01]
Quattro Mani (Alice Rybak & Susan Grace, pianos)
The Angel (1959) [2:26]
Rebecca Jo Loeb, (mezzo-soprano); Ursula Oppens, (piano)
Two Songs for Baritone (1938) [3:10]
I. Die Reichen (Heslova)
II. An Dich (Whitman)
O  Captain (1946) [4:01]
Matt Boehler (bass-baritone); Ursula Oppens (piano)
Songs of the Jewish Pioneers (1938) [5:05]
Ra'inu; Saleinu; Tel Aviv; Holem Tza'adi
Rebecca Jo Loeb (mezzo-soprano); Ursula Oppens (piano)
To a Theatre New (1961) [2:21]
Matt Boehler (bass-baritone); Ursula Oppens (piano)
rec. December 2007, Hamilton Recital Hall, Lamont School of Music, Denver (Lazy
Andy Ant); October 2007, Packard Recital Hall, Colorado College, Colorado (Suite); March and May 2008 Performing Arts Centre Recital Hall, SUNY College, Purchase, NY
BRIDGE 9308 [58:07]

Experience Classicsonline

Bridge’s dedication to Stefan Wolpe is admirable, but one wonders just how big a constituency there can possibly be for a disc of this kind. Its programme is necessarily varied; a selection of songs, a suite for two pianos for a ballet performance, and the title track, as it were, with the Tubby the Tuba-like title of Lazy Andy Ant which is puffed up in the notes as an allegorical study worthy almost of Miltonic stature.
The text was written by Jill Fletcher to be declaimed by a single narrator with two pianos. Here it’s parcelled out to a troupe of actors, to better aggrandise the narrative I suppose, but its modest forces would be served just as well, if not more realistically, by that one narrative voice. It was probably intended as the music for a puppet theatre show. It’s not really susceptible of too much analysis. There are amusing and droll moments; the entrance of the Queen Ant, mandolin impressions, the Broadway-like song to the Judge (Andy’s Song), the doughty, scary music for the Anteater. As one can tell, going over the plot is not advisable. There is some ‘production’ here in the performance to turn it into a more vital listening experience but less is probably more. It’s apparently ‘a parable of the heroic artist, scorned, pilloried, and exiled...’ etc, etc.
None of his songs have lodged in my brain, despite copious re-hearings. There’s a very busy piano part for the Blake song but Wolpe’s writing is unmemorable. The 1938 Two Songs for Baritone include a measured setting of Whitman, though again there’s a sense of diffuseness to the writing. O Captain!, the other Whitman setting of 1946 should be outstanding but it stubbornly refuses to engage. The Jewish Pioneer songs are brief and not unattractive, mixing Middle Eastern and more obviously cosmopolitan influences. The other big work here though is the Suite for Marthe Krueger (1940). It’s a dance suite and was split up into three sections at the premiere, not played straight through. It’s diatonic, strongly argued, urgent, tense and sinewy. There are Bachian undercurrents but the heavy-booted and busy writing remains over-extended and fitfully challenging. Twenty two minutes was more than enough.
Sorry to be negative. The performances sound excellently prepared and realised. Ursula Oppens is one of the pianists. The booklet gives us requisite texts and backgrounds.
Jonathan Woolf


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