Soprano Judith Bettina and pianist James Goldsworthy have assembled an eclectic selection of songs by six American composers written in the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries and ranging from the serialism of Milton Babbitt and Mel Powell to the neo-Romanticism of Tobias Picker. Bettina's voice is warm, full, secure, and pure-toned; composers are fortunate to have such a gifted and passionate advocate for their music. Her husband, James Goldsworthy, shares her passion, and together they bring formidable skill and energy to the performance of these songs. Perhaps ironically, the most avant-garde composition, Babbitt's "Phonemena," is the most satisfyingly lyrical. Using meaningless phonemes for a text, Babbitt's song, more than any other on the CD, exploits the beauty of the soprano voice, and Bettina sings it radiantly. Three other Babbitt songs, written since 2000, in spite of their spiky harmonic language, demonstrate a real mastery of vocal writing. Also striking are David Rakowski's tonally ambiguous rhapsodic vocalises "Three Encores." Christopher Berg's traditionally tonal "Ode on a Grecian Urn" is generated by an authentically lyrical impulse and shows a gift for text setting and showcasing the voice.
Songs & Encores Review
by Stephen Eddins
|Encores (3), for soprano & piano|