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Philip GLASS (b. 1937)
Tara Hugo sings Philip Glass
1. Always Neverwas [3:47]
2. Let the Letter Read You [3:12]
3. How Much I Love You [4:03]
4. The New Rule [4:22]
5. Spinning [3:34]
6. Feeding Frenzy [5:05]
7. Streets of Berlin [3:25]
8. A Sip of Wine [6:50]
9. Cabin in the Rockies [4:21]
10. Kabul [3:39]
11. Planctus [3:34]
12. The Night of Santiago [5:11]
All arrangements by Trevor Gureckis
Tara Hugo (mezzo); Megan Gould (violin); Luke Cissell (violin); Claudia Chopek (violin); Karen Waltuch, (viola); Noah Hoffeld (cello); Logan Coale (bass); Alex Sopp (flute); Hideaki Aomori (clarinet); Alicia Lee (bass clarinet); Ashley Jackson (harp); Freddie Stevenson (guitar) (The New Rule); Danielle Schwob (guitar) (Cabin in the Rockies); Trevor Gureckis (conductor/pianist)
rec. June 2012, Tainted Blue Studios, New York, USA

Experience Classicsonline

Orange Mountain Music was formed to provide a service for the music of Philip Glass. The label works in close collaboration with the composer. This release sung by mezzo-soprano Tara Hugo comprises twelve songs with settings of texts from various writers including Leonard Cohen, Allen Ginsberg and four from Hugo herself. I agree with producer Kurt Munkacsi when he writes that the songs of Philip Glass are an often overlooked part of his output. Invariably it is his orchestral scores and opera excerpts that are encountered the most.
Hugo knows Glass’s music extremely well as she was principal singer over a two year period in the Philip Glass/Leonard Cohen Book of Longing international tour. In this collection the first thing that strikes me is how beautifully Hugo enunciates the text. A trained actress as well as a singer she manages to convince the listener that she is feeling every word. Her gloriously attractive voice is splendidly rounded and conveys a medium rich timbre that feels a touch smoky. I can understand why Hugo’s voice is sometimes compared to the German chanteuse and actress Ute Lemper. 

Certainly the standout track is the highly melodic and memorable opener Always Neverwas a setting of one of Hugo’s own lyrics. This is certainly a highly enjoyable setting although I must admit I couldn’t really make much sense of the text. At times I heard shades of Barbra Streisand in Hugo’s voice; which is no bad thing. Especially enjoyable was Spinning another song using Hugo a text which is pitched in her lower register and is sung beautifully. Hugo also excels in the lyrical Streets of Berlin (aka Bent Greta’s Song) that was used in the Martin Sherman 1978 play Bent using the playwrights own short but effective text. The screenplay concerns Nazi persecution of gay men in 1930s Germany. Streets of Berlin has been covered several times, notably by rock singer Mick Jagger as a drag queen in the Sean Mathias 1997 film version of Bent and also by Ute Lemper on her 2000 album Punishing Kiss. Two of Hugo’s song texts deal with contemporary political issues: Feeding Frenzy which is concerned with the issue of greedy bankers and banks being bailed out by governments, and the lyrics of Kabul mentions phone hacking by the press. I recall the song Cabin in the Rockies to an Allen Ginsberg text as one of my favourite tracks from Glass’s outstanding 1993 album Hydrogen Jukebox. In Cabin in the Rockies the quality of Glass’s instrumental writing is most apparent together with Hugo’s magnificent singing.

This release is highly characteristic of Glass’s music with his incessant and repetitive rhythms serving as the backbone to each song. Conducted by Trevor Gureckis, Hugo is backed by a group of around a dozen instrumentalists whose playing is hard to fault. The sound quality is quite spectacular being crystal clear and well balanced. In addition I am delighted to report that the label has provided full texts. The only area of concern is the short playing time of fifty minutes which is most ungenerous. Tara Hugo is an outstanding performer and her voice sounds in remarkable condition. Those who enjoy the music of Philip Glass should not hesitate with this release which could even win over some doubters too.
Michael Cookson

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