Nick PEROS (b. 1963)
Track listing at end of review
Heidi Klann (soprano)
Alayne Hall (piano)
rec. 2000. No further details given. DDD.
PHOENIX RECORDS PHX 1439-2 [55:05]
Never judge a CD by its cover, nor for that matter by the photo of the composer on the back: this is not a collection of soft-rock 'ballads' by a 1980s singer-songwriter, but thirty-one well-crafted, atmospheric art songs by Canadian composer Nick Peros. This is his second CD, originally released in 2000. It followed a collection of motets, of all things, also on Phoenix (PHX 0878-2; no relation to the Austrian label Phoenix Edition). A follow-up to the present disc, showcasing some solo instrumental pieces by Peros, was released very recently (PHX 01210 - see review).
As his appearance hints, Peros does indeed have a rock music background, a fact underlined by his emblematic declaration in a recent interview in Fanfare magazine that "I would still rank Jimi Hendrix as the third greatest instrumentalist of all time, after Paganini and Liszt". Yet, as his three CDs attest, his commitment to art music is earnest and considerable.
The songs in this programme are all structurally straightforward, basically strophic, with very few items running to more than two minutes. Peros' ideas do not break new ground by any stretch, but his music is thoughtful and unfailingly attractive, and many of these songs could be slipped into any Wolf or Britten recital without embarrassment. More than half are settings of Emily Brontë's poems, with a further three by A E Housman - a clear signal that the general mood is one of passionate melancholy, regret and despair. Cheery affairs like Awaking Morning Laughs from Heaven are a rarity! A side-effect of this fact is a degree of identity in this recital: identity, but certainly not monotony - Peros' imagination provides for enough variety in the music to maintain the listener's interest.
Indeed, songs like Her Strong Enchantments Failing, Still Beside that Dreary Water, The Sun Has Set and Virtue, to name but four, are truly memorable in their unsettling or downright chilling ambience. One curiosity is Peros' decision in Housman's Eight o'Clock to end with three piano strikes, rather than eight or four as the text leads the listener to expect.
In this, her first recording, Canadian soprano Heidi Klann proves to have a good, mature-sounding voice, expressive with plenty of vibrato and confidently controlled, likely to appeal to most tastes. Her diction is generally clear. She is capably accompanied by the young Canadian pianist Alayne Hall.
Sound quality is good, as is to be expected from a CD overseen by Peros, who is also "one of Canada's most successful independent record producers". Nonetheless, there is a slight technical blip in She Rested by the Broken Brook. The recording venue is not given, but the spaciousness and reverberation suggest a church.
The glossy booklet consists of ten fold-out sides, providing Peros' own notes on the songs, brief biographies of Klann and Hall, and full sung texts. The CD is rather short, but any fan of the grand Lieder tradition should find much here to enjoy.
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Any fan of the grand Lieder tradition should find much here to enjoy. 

Track listing

When Roses Cease To Bloom, Sir (Dickinson) [1:11]
I Taste A Liquor Never Brewed (Dickinson) [0:49]
So Set Its Sun In Thee (Dickinson) [1:38]
My Love Is In A Light Attire (Joyce) [1:48]
Tell Me, Tell Me, Smiling Child (Brontë) [1:38]
I Gazed Upon The Cloudless Moon (Brontë) [1:17]
Lonely At Her Window Sitting (Brontë) [1:03]
Was It With The Fields Of Green (Brontë) [1:24]
Morning's First Light Is Gold (Peros) [1:10]
Today A Bird Came Down To Me (Peros) [0:36]
She Dwelt Among The Untrodden Ways (Wordsworth) [2:04]
Sleep Brings No Joy To Me (Brontë) [3:40]
The Soft Unclouded Blue Of Air (Brontë) [1:18]
I Know Not How It Falls On Me (Brontë) [1:54]
'Twas One Of Those Dark Cloudy Days (Brontë) [0:58]
O Evening, Why Is Thy Light So Sad (Brontë) [2:08]
Mild The Mist Upon The Hill (Brontë) [2:08]
She Rested By The Broken Brook (Stevenson) [1:54]
Eight O'Clock (Housman) [2:24]
With Rue My Heart Is Laden (Housman) [1:15]
Her Strong Enchantments Failing (Housman) [1:26]
I'll Come When Thou Art Saddest (Brontë) [2:26]
Still Beside That Dreary Water (Brontë) [2:41]
The Sun Has Set (Brontë) [2:34]
Awaking Morning Laughs From Heaven (Brontë) [1:39]
Fall, Leaves, Fall (Brontë) [3:08]
There Are Two Trees In A Lonely Field (Brontë) [1:11]
She Dried Her Tears (Brontë) [1:33]
Virtue (Herbert) [3:40]
Eternity (Blake) [1:02]
Ah, Sunflower! (Blake) [1:27]