The Hours Begin to Sing: More Songs by American Composers = JAKE HEGGIE: From the Book of Nightmares; DAVID GARNER: Vilna Poems; JOHN CORIGLIANO: Three Irish Folksong Settings; GORDON GETTY: Four Emily Dickinson Songs; LUNA PEARL WOOLF: Rumi: Quatrains of Love; WILLIAM BOLCOM: Five Cabaret Songs – Lisa Delan, sop./ Kristin Pankonin, p./ Matt Haimovitz, cello/ David Krakauer, clarinet/ Maxim Rubtsov, flute – Pentatone Classics multichannel SACD PTC5186 459, 78:49 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:
I reviewed Lisa Delan’s first issue in this “series” back in 2009, And If the Song be Worth a Smile. I said then “I am not sure I have heard a finer American song album since Songs of America made its debut on Nonesuch about 20 years ago.” Well, guess what? I can say it again, with a lot of confidence. Not that it is better than the last one—that is too difficult a call to make—but it is certainly the equal.
We have four more songs from the intensely talented and lyrical genius Jake Heggie, this time a little dark and creepy (with the addition of cello), but still affecting and marvelously intrepid in his ability to match words and text. This time the text is by poet Galway Kinnell, and I would not be lying if I said Kinnell’s work is actually improved by Heggie, and there is not a lot of poetry you can say that about. William Bolcom returns as well, again with five more of his Cabaret Songs, and Arnold Weinstein’s poetry has never enjoyed such a sensitive treatment, his back room lyrics explored to the hilt by Bolcom’s masterly music.
Four other composers are called back for encores. Gordon Getty is on his best and most infectious behavior with his Dickinson settings, perfectly nuanced to the unusual and often quirky pauses of Emily Dickinson in a way that perhaps only Aaron Copland could have managed. Woolf’s unusual and evocative love poems by Rumi had to be a challenge as the words themselves are so highly perfumed to begin with. The brilliance of these settings is in the sparseness of the harmonies (also adding a cello), allowing Rumi to shine through in all his glory.
John Corigliano, whose own cabaret songs stood out in the last issue, takes a completely different road on this disc with some Irish folksong settings for voice and flute alone. This was in a response to his vigorous Pied Piper Fantasy way back in 1982 for James Galway. This time he wanted to test a more intimate environment and the results are hauntingly beautiful. Finally, David Garner graces us with his Klezmer-like Vilna Poems, sung in Yiddish with the addition this time of clarinet and cello, to poems by the great Avrom Sutzkever, who lived in the Vilna ghetto for two years before escaping to the forests with his wife. Particularly noteworthy is the exceptional and wailing clarinet of David Krakauer.
Lisa Delan is still the master of this sort of recital, even more affecting and in control than the last album. I for one will be thrilled if there is yet another and I can’t think of any reason why there won’t be. Pentatone again proves that intimate chamber music can be well-served by judicious use of the surround-sound microphones. Outstanding!