by | Jul 27, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

Long Island Songs = TOM CIPULLO: Long Island Songs; GEORGE BRUNNER: Three Japanese Songs; ANNE DINSMORE PHILLIPS: See the Lilies of the Field; In Remembrance of Me; Why Faith Abides; No Bird Soars Too High; CHRISTIAN MCLEER: Three Light Pieces; Longing Eternal Bliss – Monica Harte, soprano/ Tom Cipulla, Noby Ishida, Anne Dinsmore Phillips, Christian Mcleer, piano – MSR Classics 1310, 48:00 [Distr. by Albany] ***:
Monica Harte’s soprano is somewhat problematic on this interesting recital in that the vibrato is a little too wobbly and fast, sometimes sounding as if it was going to spiral out of control (especially in sudden loud and high bursts) but never quite does. It would be much better if she could vary the speed and intensity of it, but unfortunately it remains consistently the same on each song where some variance could enhance the dramatic effect. She has a good feeling for these works, and seems to understand the inherent context of each song, and shows excellent dramatic instincts according to the particular textual situation.
Cipullo’s Long Island Songs are drawn from William Heyen’s book Long Island Light, very nostalgic and sentimental pieces that also demand much descriptive prowess from the soprano, which must mainly be done in making the text understandable. I could not make out many words at all and needed to follow the text in the booklet. Cipullo builds most of the characterization of these works in the piano part, which sometimes covers up the soprano. I can easily imagine better performances of these affecting songs. Christian Mcleer’s Three Light Pieces are just that, written at the drop of a hat for Monica Harte. They are also relatively insubstantial as well, working perhaps as a recital “joke” but not really worthy of inclusion on a recording. His Longing Eternal Bliss is much meatier, though Harte’s many protracted vocalises (especially in the first two songs) seem airy and pointless after a while, doing little to add to the comprehensibility of the concept. The last two songs in the cycle, “Would” and “Comes and Goes” show the real talent behind the composition.
George Brunner’s Three Japanese Songs are beautifully scored and delicately rendered. He wisely dips into certain orientalisms and keeps the texture suitably sparse and memorable by forcing us to pay attention. I enjoyed this tremendously. Anne Dinsmore Phillips comes more from the jazz and popular worlds, and as a result her melodies are easily the most affecting and catchy—the woman has a real ear for a good tune, and each work here displays a quiet craft and consummate mastery of the idiom. “In Remembrance of Me” has to be one of the most delightfully poignant melodies I have heard in a long time.
So we have a bit of a mixed bag here, nothing really not worth hearing and much that is, with the caveats mentioned. Collectors of American songs will need to have this, and the sound is very well recorded.
— Steven Ritter

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