CD Review - 2008



Songs in Transit: An American Expedition

19 Tracks (Playing Time = 55:03)

Melanie Mitrano, soprano


Music by Tom Cipullo, Lori Laitman, Lee Hoiby, Melanie Mitrano, Beth Anderson, Gene Pritsker, Allen Jaffe, Paul Moravec, David Del Tredici

Capstone Records CPS-8756


How To Get Heat Without Fire -- Tom Cipullo (accompanied by the composer at the piano)
1. Why I Wear My Hair Long (1:21)
2. Saying Goodbye (2:08)
3. The Pocketbook (4:24)
4. How To Get Heat Without Fire (4:48)

5. The Hour (2:12) -- Lori Laitman (accompanied by the composer)
6. Money (1:52) -- Lori Laitman (accompanied by the composer)

Three Ages of Woman -- Lee Hoiby (accompanied by the composer)
7. Manners (3:08)
8. Filling Station (3:38)
9. Insomnia (3:38)

Two Infatuations and a Phobia -- Melanie Mitrano (Judith Munro de Wette, piano)
10. Your Little Voice (1:48)
11. Time for Tea (2:05)
12. Bona Petite (3:17)

13. Lullaby (1:37) -- Beth Anderson (Judith Munro de Wette, piano)
14. Beauty Runs Faster (0:40) -- Beth Anderson (Judith Munro de Wette, piano)

15. Perirrhanterium (Truth)(3:06) -- Gene Pritskeri

16. We Are Never Alone (3:36) -- Allen Jaffe (Judith Munro de Wette, piano)

Two Popular Songs -- Paul Moravec ( accompanied by the composer)
17. I Could Call You Up (3:11)
18. Main Street U.S.A. (3:44)

19. New Year's Eve (4:07) -- David Del Tredici (accompanied by the composer)


This is a most diverse and satisfying CD of contemporary songs, most of them accompanied by the composers themselves -- a rare treat!
Two of them, Paul Moravec and David Del Tredici, are Pultizer-Prize winners.

Another treat is the marvelous voice of Melanie Mitrano. She is a multi-talented musician and active as a performer, teacher, lecturer and writer who specializes in new music. She has the distinction of bring the first woman to receive a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the New England Conservatory, and also holds degrees in vocal performance from
the Eastman School of Music.

She sings these songs with crystal clear diction, conveying the words and the essence of each song. She also convincingly handles the extremely wide vocal ranges.

All of the songs are well chosen and have value. I'll just comment on the songs
that struck me as especially poignant or memorable.

I was especially impressed with Lee Hoiby's Three Ages of Woman (tracks 7-9), based on conversational poems by Elizabeth Bishop. The third song of this set, "Insomnia," was particularly moving with a lovely embellished vocal line that is beautifully sung by Mitrano.

How many classical singers are also composers?

Well, Melanie Mitrano is and a very good composer at that! She includes a set of three songs: Two Infatuations and a Phobia (tracks 10-12). The first song, "Your Little Voice," is set to a sly poem by E.E. Cummings. The remaining two poems, "Time for Tea" and "Bona Petite," were written by the singer-composer herself. These songs all have a keen sensitivity to life's simple joys with a musical twist. The songs are also full of humor, especially the third song with a funny final punch line.

Gene Pritsker's "Perirrhanterium" (Truth) (track 15), based on a poem by George Herbert, is from a cycle titled: Poetic Subjects Eternal for soprano, baritone, 2 rappers and Samplestra. The song featured on this CD is quite an unusual mixture of samples from other singers and African drums with the overdubbing of Mitrano's voice. This is a fascinating song and a good example of how to use mixed media effectively.

The two songs by Paul Maravec (tracks 17-18) are in a more popular Broadway style. "I Could Call You Up" based on a poem by Wendy Lamb is a rhtyhmic style similar to Stephen Sondheim. The other song, "Main Street U.S.A.," is set to a poem by Martha M. Moravec. It is a very nostalgic poem, beautifully composed by Moravec and movingly sung by Mitrano.

The final song on the CD, "New Year's Eve" (track 19) set to a poem by Carla Drysdale, is quite a tour-de-force, beginning with a thundering pianistic flourish. This is a most evocative song and provides an appropriate finale to this CD of American songs.

For those who are tired of new songs that don't speak to an audience, this CD provides the proof that there are many fine songs being composed in our time
that do speak eloquently to an audience.

For fans of new music, this is a most enjoyable CD well worth seeking out.

It has the added advantage of the composers themselves accompanying
the exceptional voice of Melanie Mitrano.

This is one of the best CDs of new American songs to be released in a very long time.

I highly recommend it.


--Roger Hall, 12 March 2008


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