HAMPSON SISLER: Milestones; Five Shakespeare Sonnets – Ian Greenlaw, bar./ Michelle Trovato, sop./ National Sym. Orch. of Ukraine/ Bulgarian National Radio Sym. Orch./ Crimean State Philharmonic Sym. Orch./ Arkady Leytush – MSR 1414 (2 CDs), 53:11, 47:00 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

In previous reviews I found Sisler’s music a little inconsistent, and definitely lethargic in many instances, though always illuminated by spots of real melodic inspiration and segments of high quality. In this release he shows me more than I previously suspected. Though Milestones seems to be a sort of chronicle of a person’s life, a massive three-section suite subdivided into descriptive sections (“Birth Song”, “Progeny”, “Anniversary”, etc.), the title “Orchestral Suite” may not be the original intention as the notes mention the conductor, Arkady Leytush, as the man who orchestrated the work. Perhaps it was a piano composition—the notes do not say. Whatever its origin, the piece is a fine example of Sisler’s art, certainly the best work I have heard from him, a hybrid of styles that sometimes sounds like good film music, Puccini, Debussy, and even some sprinkles of the English pastoralists.

The Five Shakespeare Sonnets are quite lovely, very intense in their communicative ability, and well-suited to the vicissitudes of the human voice, quite expressive in nature. Our singers do an excellent job in putting these across, and the performances in general are sterling, as is the sound. A welcome release in the continuing Sisler series that MSR is presenting.

—Steven Ritter