Dawn Upshaw

Voices of Light

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Making song recordings with context and cohesion is one of Dawn Upshaw's specialties, and one of her best qualities. Voices of Light, with pianist Gilbert Kalish, is a masterpiece in that regard, pairing the underappreciated songs of Olivier Messiaen with those of Debussy, Fauré, and relative newcomer Osvaldo Golijov. The result is a heady and interesting program -- one that feels exciting right out of the wrapper. The Messiaen and Golijov are fantastic, and by themselves justify the purchase of the album; "Prière Exaucée" (Prayer Granted) from Poèmes pour Mi, for instance, has an electric, visceral joy; and Golijov's "Lúa Descolorida" (Colorless Moon) unfurls the kind of slow, simple beauty that makes sadness a thing to be savored. The rest of the album is somewhat uneven, largely because Upshaw's French is too wordy, too accented, and too removed from the essential melodic quality of the language to capture the music's real mojo. Debussy's Chansons de Bilitis in particular, three of the most erotic and ephemeral songs he ever composed, seem sexless and disjointed, wanting for a more syrupy and evocative vocalism. But Kalish is on the money, playing with the kind of "raindrops on a pond" color and articulation that bring the best out of impressionism. Fauré's La chanson d'Ève fairs better, benefiting from Upshaw's careful attention to poetry. In the end, this is a highly recommendable recording that offers the welcome opportunity to hear some less-familiar gems lovingly performed.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Poèmes pour Mi, song cycle for soprano & piano (or orchestra), I/17b
1 3:52
Chansons de Bilitis (3), song cycle for voice & piano, L. 90
2 2:49
3 3:46
4 2:54
Harawi, song cycle for soprano & piano, I/28
5 5:40
6 4:21
7 5:41
Poèmes pour Mi, song cycle for soprano & piano (or orchestra), I/17b
8 3:09
La chanson d'Eve, song cycle (10) for voice & piano, Op. 95
9
7:16
10
2:32
11
1:19
12
2:26
13
1:10
14
1:35
15
1:38
16
2:09
17
2:38
18
2:39
Chants de terre et de ciel, song cycle for soprano & piano, I/19
19 4:08
blue highlight denotes track pick