Classical CD Reviews

Shakespeare’s Memory – Joseph Summer’s The Shakespeare Concert Series 1 – Miroslav Sekera (p.)/ Chad Sloan (bar.)/ Andrea Chenoweth (sop.)/ Kellie van Horn (mezzo-sop.)/ Ian Watson (p.)/ Justin Vickers (tenor)/ Maria Ferrante (sop.)/ Lydie Hartelova (harp)/ Ian Watson (harpsichord)/ Kalmia String Quartet – Navona Records

A fine document of a concert series gaining in importance.

Published on March 12, 2013

Shakespeare’s Memory – Joseph Summer’s The Shakespeare Concert Series 1 – Miroslav Sekera (piano)/ Chad Sloan (bar.)/ Andrea Chenoweth (sop.)/ Kellie van Horn (mezzo-sop.)/ Ian Watson (piano)/ Justin Vickers (tenor)/ Maria Ferrante (sop.)/ Lydie Hartelova (harp)/ Ian Watson (harpsichord)/ Kalmia String Quartet – Navona Records NVS899, 61:34 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

This is my first exposure to the music of Joseph Summer, one-time student at an early age of Karel Husa, and long-time composer of operas and songs. Eleven of his Oxford Songs are here presented in a collection titled Volume One from a festival of Shakespearian music based on the immortal bard. According to the website of the concerts, “Begun in 2003 with concerts in Massachusetts and the U.S. Virgin Islands, The Shakespeare Concerts present recitals by world class musicians of music inspired by the immortal bard. These pieces include settings of the original English text to settings in translation by composers from the classical period to the 21st century. The mainstay of the series is the music of Joseph Summer. Since its inception, The Shakespeare Concerts have premiered over two dozen of his sixty-odd Oxford Songs.” This release is the first intended to document The Shakespeare Concerts, though the composer has enjoyed four other CDs as well on different labels.

Each of the tracks is a self-contained entity that uses a wide variety of instrumentation. Particularly expressive is Summer’s use of strings, far more than mere accompaniment and used in a manner that reflects a mastery of the idiom. Shakespeare is not easy to set to music, but Summer seems to have a natural affinity for it, a genuine love, and this comes across in his settings, which are always idiomatic and flowing in terms of the natural ebb of the language. The music is tonal but not simple, yet the complexity only adds to the understanding of the music instead of detracting from it. I enjoyed the music very much.

The singers range from competent to excellent, all fully engaged in the music, while the sound is generally very good. Included as a bonus are some scores and additional liner notes. An interesting, if offbeat release, that will provide much pleasure for lovers of Shakespeare and art song.

TrackList:

Wirth Mirth in Funeral
On the Death of a Fair Infant
Oxford Songs, Book 3 (text by W.B. Yeats)
Oxford Songs, Book 3: No. 6a. Leda And the Swan
Full Fathom Five
Sonnet III, “Look in thy glass, and tell the face thou viewest”
Sonnet CXXXV, “Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will”
Sonnet CXVI, ” Let me not to the marriage of true minds”
Sonnet XCVII, “How like a winter hath my absence been” – Sonnet XCVIII, “From you have I been absent in the spring”
He Shall With Speed to England
The Earl of Oxford’s March (William Byrd)
The Garden of Forking Paths, “String Quartet in C major”
Shakespeare’s Memory
Oxford Songs, Book 3 (text by W. Shakespeare)
If By Your Art

—Steven Ritter




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