OPERA NEWS - Brooklyn Art Song Society: “New Voices”
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Brooklyn Art Song Society: “New Voices”

spacer Songs by Roven, Djupstrom, Kallembach, Garfein, Strickling, Marshall, River; Oliver. Brofman, piano. Texts included. Roven Records RR30015

Recordings Brooklyn Art Song Cover 915

The Brooklyn Art Song Society keeps the intimate recital alive with innovative programming that draws on traditional nineteenth-century music as well as newly composed works. Here the group showcases songs by four award-winning composers who honor the written word in elegant, singer-friendly settings.

Glen Roven’s pop style energy infuses The Vineyard Songs, eight poems encapsulating life on Martha’s Vineyard, including a riff on a restaurant sign refusing to accept checks from one Samuel Hopper. The opening “Devotions” is an ecstatic celebration of the rituals of island life, where the piano breaks in with a chorale setting offering solemn benediction, while the five-finger exercises of “Reconsidering the Lilies” and the affectionate lyricism of “In the Orchard with Dad” provide contrast. Soprano Laura Strickling’s lovely diction and warm, clear sound bring attractive immediacy to this cycle, and Michael Brofman finds myriad colors in Roven’s idiomatic keyboard writing.

Michael Djupstrom’s “Oars in Water” sets beautiful prose by Jeanne Minahan in a rhythmic haze suggesting the narrator’s boat journey across Lake George, and fresh-voiced baritone Kyle Oliver finds just the right easy, engaged tone. James Kallembach’s Four Romantic Songs are unabashedly so, the vocal lines rising in Straussian sweep, not only in the setting of “Allerseelen” that pays homage to the better-known version, but in the opening “The Coolin,” where Elisabeth Marshall’s radiant soprano soars and dips sensuously.

Two songs by Herschel Garfein on texts by Tom Stoppard are heard for the first time here, in elegant performances by mezzo-soprano Krista River. The well-known tale of Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zi’s dream of the butterfly, as narrated in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, is related drily, with sophistical piano writing enhancing the tale. “The Unicorn Song” reaches more deeply into emotion, as a man encounters the magical animal in wonder and awe, beautifully expressed by River. But once others begin to see unicorns, the experience becomes a crass media event, reflected in Garfein’s amusingly cheap piano accompaniment. –Judith Malafronte

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