GORDON GETTY: The White Election – Lisa Delan, soprano/ Fritz Steinegger, piano – Pentatone

by | May 20, 2009 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

GORDON GETTY: The White Election – Lisa Delan, soprano/ Fritz Steinegger, piano – Pentatone Multichannel SACD 5186 054, 70:30 ***1/2 [Distr. by Naxos]:

Getty’s music is perplexing to me. One moment we get some absolutely lively melodies, and the next what often seems like music on autopilot. This release is a good example; one only has to be familiar with the poetry of Emily Dickinson to know that setting 32 of her poems to music in only 70 minutes plus change means that a lot of words are going to have to fly by fairly quickly. This means that more than likely there will be few episodes of purely florid passages and a lot of recitative-like events in order to squeeze all of the words in the allotted time. This is indeed what happens, and it one of the prime weaknesses of these songs, a little like a composer cheating. The lines often turn too declamatory, like intoned poetry, instead of the result of an artist’s probing into the more psychological depths of the poems as expressed in the music itself. This is obviously a choice that the composer has made, and I don’t want to belabor it, but if you are looking for something like Copland’s 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson you are likely to be disappointed.

I do love songs cycles in surround sound–that is for sure–and Pentatone does a good job of capturing this one. Mr. Steinegger is excellent, though the piano part is not that challenging, but Ms. Delan’s sometimes raspy voice occasionally veers out of control where the vibrato seems to lose its tonal center. She seems to understand the piece very well and has thought about her dramatic presentation, simple and unaffected, but I can imagine more enticing tonal allure. Nevertheless, this is not a piece that lives or dies according to the quality of the singing, but instead the measured exactness of the poetry, chosen to represent Dickinson in love through a series of progressively chosen texts.

An interesting cycle for sure, even moments of real inspiration, but a little uneven, given here in great sound and acceptable performances.

Part One: The Pensive Spring
1 I Sing to Use the Waiting (major setting)
2 There is a Morn by Men Unseen
3 I had a Guinea Golden
4 If She Had Been the Mistletoe
5 New Feet Within My Garden Go
6 She Bore It
7 I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed
8 I Should Not Dare to Leave My Friend

Part Two: So We Must Meet Apart
9 There Came a Day at Summer’s Full
10 The First Day’s Night Had Come
11 The Soul Selects Her Own Society
12 It Was Not Death, For I Stood Up
13 When I Was Small, a Woman Died
14 I Cried at Pity, Not at Pain
15 The Night Was Wide
16 I Cannot Live With You

Part Three: Almost Peace
17 My First Well Day, Since Many Ill
18 It Ceased to Hurt Me
19 I Like to See it Lap the Miles
20 Split the Lark and You’ll Find the Music
21 The Cricket Sang
22 After a Hundred Years
23 The Clouds Their Backs Together Laid
24 I Shawll Not Murmur

Part Four: My Feet Slip Nearer
25 The Grave My Little Cottage Is
26 I Did Not Reach Thee
27 My Wars Are Laid Away in Books
28 There Came a Wind Like a Bugle
29 The Going From a World We Know
30 Upon His Saddle Sprung a Bird
31 Beauty Crowds Me
32 I Sing to Use the Waiting

— Steven Ritter

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