Passing By: Songs by Jake Heggie

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In a career with striking correspondences with that of his contemporary, Ricky Ian Gordon, Jake Heggie has been hugely successful in the treacherous field of contemporary opera using a lyrical idiom that is strongly infused with the influence of American popular song. Both composers have also made a mark in the area of new art songs, producing a profusion of songs that have been eagerly taken up by some of the leading singers of their time because of their expert and communicative vocal writing. Passing By includes 21 of the more than 200 songs Heggie had written at the time of its release, most of them dating from 2004 to 2007. The writers he sets are diverse, including Rainer Maria Rilke, Raymond Carver, A.E. Houseman, Vachel Lindsay, Armistead Maupin, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Terrence McNally. All but three of the songs are parts of larger song cycles; even when working in these smaller forms, Heggie is drawn to sets of texts that have a unifying dramatic theme. Among the most effective is Here and Gone, songs and duets for tenor, baritone, and piano quartet, whose seven songs are especially sophisticated musically and direct in their emotional appeal. Tenor Paul Groves and baritone Keith Phares bring lyrical intensity and emotional honesty to the cycle. The singers include some of the most illustrious stars of the early 21st century. Susan Graham, Joyce DiDonato, Frederica von Stade, Isabel Bayrakdarian, and Zheng Cao all deliver committed performances charged with feeling, and sometimes humor. Heggie performs on the piano, supported by a capable assortment of chamber players. Avie's sound is clean and vividly present.

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