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SOUNDS OF AMERICA

Emotionally and musically in tune: Coro Allegro conducted by artistic director David Hodgkins either medieval pantomimes or Japanese Noh, depending on your perspective. A well‑considered addition in the composer’s 1991 revisions involved scoring the Dumbshows (originally electronic pieces) for a Mozart‑size orchestra.

The only real criticisms that seem justified here are those of most first operas: occasional clumsiness in text‑settings (Shakespeare being acutely difficult source material) and an orchestration occasionally too thick for vocal comfort (Act 1 in particular being problematic). Thanks to the benefits of recording and post‑ production, Gil Rose keeps his forces here well balanced. Baritone David Kravitz as King Leontes bears the brunt of the show’s musical and dramatic demands and remains the standout in a fine, fluid cast. Ken Smith

Lasser ‘Colors of Feelings’ In Colors of Feelings a . Les visages de l’amour b . Nicolette et Aucassin c bc Elizabeth Futral, ac Susanna Phillips sops c Michael York narr Margo Garrett pf Delos F DE3428 (68’ • DDD)

Song-cycles and a fable from Juilliard School’s Lasser Composer Philip Lasser, a faculty member of the Juilliard School, has gotten a fair amount of attention for his Twelve Variations on a Chorale of JS Bach, a piece championed (and recorded) by the pianist Simone Dinnerstein – a collaboration that has led a colleague of mine to comment that ‘Lasser, like Dinnerstein, shows restraint, carving out a beautifully calm space rather than impressing through velocity’.

Much the same can be said of the songs here. Having been trained in the counterpoint‑rich tradition of Nadia Boulanger, Lasser plumbs Germanic depths while managing to distil them on a Gallic surface without seeming superficial. Sopranos Susanna Phillips and Elizabeth Futral illuminate the music’s broad emotional terrain strictly by reaching within.

The success here partly lies in the choice of texts. One would be hard‑pressed to find a more evocative poet than Wynelle Ann Carson, whose restraint in expression finds a carefully understated setting in Lasser’s In Colors of Feelings (2009) and a touching embodiment in Phillips (for whom the songs were written). Lasser covers a broader canvas in Les visages de l’amour (1998), six French texts about love rendered in a full emotional arch by Futral.

Lasser’s English and French sides come together in Nicolette et Aucassin (2008), a medieval musical fable with six French texts (sung by Phillips and Futral) linked by five English narrations (performed by actor Michael York). Pianist Margo Garrett,

though thoroughly consistent earlier, here rises to another level entirely in holding the hybrid form together. Appropriately enough, it was written for her. Ken Smith

‘Awakenings’ Perera Why I Wake Early a Stern Shofar b

Coro Allegro / David Hodgkins with a Lisa Brooke, Sanja Larson vns a Sandra Nortier va a Reinmar Seidler vc a Darryl Hollister pf Navona F NV5878 (62’ • DDD • T)

New music from Boston’s LGBT community choir The two substantial works on Coro Allegro’s welcome new disc could hardly exist in more distant worlds. Robert Stern takes up the story of Moses, the golden calf and the tablets in Shofar, a haunting oratorio in four movements. Poems by Mary Oliver are the basis of Ronald Perera’s colourful and poignant Why I Wake Early, named for the last of eight sections that move from one morning to the next.

Both composers season their essentially tonal language with harmonic spices but what stands out in each score is expressive vocal and instrumental writing that flows from the texts with idiomatic grace and intensity. These are deeply affecting pieces and meaningful additions to the choral repertoire. An actual gramophone.co.uk

GRAMOPHONE DECEMBER 2012 III