Out of the Shadows - Rediscovered American Art Songs
Lisa Delan (soprano)
Kevin Korth (piano)
Matt Haimovitz (cello) (tr. 18-20)
rec. Skywalker Sound, San Rafael, USA, September/October 2015, May 2016
PENTATONE PTC5186572 SACD [76:07]
Lisa Delan is probably one of the most versatile singers now before the public. She has most of all helped promoting contemporary music and collaborated with many of today’s song composers. She has brought musical works to life, as she writes in the liner notes for this newest disc. This disc is a bit different insofar as she and pianist Kevin Korth bring works to light. The songs here, covering ‘a century’s worth of treasures’, ‘have been heard only rarely; many have never before been recorded.’ To dig them out must have been like musical archaeology, since a lot of the music has long been out of print. I also have to admit that the majority of the composers were previously unknown to me. Listening through this programme gave me a lot of new insights in the American treasure of songs.
Paul Nordoff is best remembered as a music therapist, but he wrote over 100 songs, of which only 12 were published in his lifetime. The six presented here are a joy to listen to and four of them are first time recordings. The charming Serenade in ¾-time, the melodious Music I Heard With You and There Shall Be More Joy are particularly attractive. The multi-active Paul Bowles was a better-known quantity through his settings of Tennessee Williams’s Blue Mountain Ballads, previously recorded by Thomas Hampson. All four are real gems and it is difficult to rate certain of them higher than the others, but the ragtime influenced Lonesome Man and the blues Sugar In the Cane feel extra urgent.
Of Stephen Paulus’s seven Songs of Love and Longing, it was the intense Moonless Night that gave me the greatest pleasure, but I am sure I will return to the others in due course. The piano accompaniments are very expressive.
Included in this programme are also present-day arrangements of three well-known songs from times gone by. Here Lisa and Kevin are joined by cellist Matt Haimowitz. David Garner’s version of Auld Lang Syne is quite elaborated but the last stanza is performed straight – and beautifully too. Gordon Getty, whose initiative it was to commission these arrangements, contributes Shenandoah. Here the melody is unadulterated but the accompaniment is rather adventurous. This also goes for Bishop’s Home, Sweet Home in Jack Perla’s arrangement. Haimowitz, who had an international break-through while still fairly young, has lost none of his technique and beautiful tone.
John Duke was a prolific composer of songs: over 265! His settings of e. e. cummings are light-hearted and elegant – and great fun. Lisa Delan’s steam-whistle howl at the end of hist…whist is highly idiomatic.
Norman Dello Joio was a prolific and successful composer and even won a Pulitzer Prize in 1957, and a lot of his oeuvre has been recorded. Not so, however, his Three Songs of Adieu for voice, from 1962, which here get their recording debut. Intense feelings are expressed here. John Kander is probably the best-known composer in this programme, since his successful collaboration with lyricist Fred Ebb in musicals like Chicago, Cabaret and Kiss of the Spider Woman. His contribution here is very special. He set to music a famous letter from Sullivan Ballou, a major in the Civil War, written in the battle front to his beloved Sarah, leaving it among his belongings in case he would be killed, which he was just a week later. It is a very gripping letter, which expresses both hope for the future and fear that something would go wrong. But it is also comforting, ending with “Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again …”. The setting is wonderful and it is indeed remarkable that it had never before been recorded under studio conditions. It was premiered by Renée Fleming and Warren Jones in 1994 for Marilyn Horne’s 60th birthday celebration gala at Carnegie Hall and a live recording of that occasion was issued on RCA. If you haven’t got that recording then buy the present disc for this song alone – and you get a lot of wonderful songs which you probably haven’t heard before in the bargain.
Randall Thompson, who gets the last word in this recital, was a composer I found in my record collection, an instrumental piece that I like very much. The three songs that close this disc are truly beautiful. They sound like having been composed in the 18th century and time has stood still ever since, and still this is music that belongs in our time.
Thank you, Lisa and Kevin, for letting us unawares be involved in the wonderful music on this disc!
Paul NORDOFF (1909 – 1977)
1. Serenade [1:30]
2. Music I Heard With You [2:02]
3. Elegy [0:44]
4. This Is the Shape of the Leaf [3:06]
5. Willow River [1:58]
6. There Shall Be More Joy [1:51]
Paul BOWLES (1910 – 1999)
Blue Mountain Ballads
7. Heavenly Grass [2:03]
8. Lonesome Man [1:21]
9. Cabin [1:29]
10. Sugar In the Cane [1:19]
Stephen PAULUS (1949 – 2014)
Songs of Love and Longing
11. Endless Autumn Nights [1:48]
12. The One Who Greets Me [1:06]
13. Dark Seed [0:54]
14. Echoes [1:45]
15. Moonless Nights [1:09]
16. The Bashful Moon [2:10]
17. From This World [1:39]
David GARNER (b. 1954)
18. Auld Lang Syne (traditional poem by Robert Burns) Arranged for soprano, cello and piano by David Garner [4:10]
Gordon GETTY (b. 1933)
19. Shenandoah (traditional) Arranged for soprano, cello and piano by Gordon Getty [3:42]
Jack PERLA (b. 1959)
20. Home, Sweet Home (original melody by Henry Bishop) Arranged for soprano, cello and piano by Jack Perla [4:14]
John DUKE (1899 – 1984)
21. Just – Spring [1:53]
22. hist…whist [1:05]
23. I Carry Your Heart [2:43]
24. The Mountains Are Dancing [2:33]
Norman DELLO JOIO (1913 – 2008)
Three Songs of Adieu
25. After Love [2:02]
26. Fade, Vison Bright [1:32]
27. Farewell [2:43]
John KANDER (b. 1927)
28. A Letter From Sullivan Ballou [7:30]
Randall THOMPSON (1899 – 1984)
29. My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord (Magnificat) [5:44]
30. Tapestry [3:04]
31. Velvet Shoes [5:01]