Collage New Music - John Harbison: Mottetti di Montale

Collage New Music - John Harbison: Mottetti di Montale
Release Date:
John Harbison: Mottetti di Montale
Vocal Music

Fairly or not, John Harbison's music is sometimes hard for listeners to embrace, not only because of its unpredictable variety and emotional aloofness, but also because of its strong literary orientation, which adds yet another level of complexity to an already difficult body of work. Mottetti di Montale is a collection of art songs in four books on texts by Italian poet Eugenio Montale (1896-1981), drawn from his collection "Le Occasioni." One may expect that Harbison's love for these poems and feeling for the Italian language are sufficient to inspire great music, but that is regrettably not the case: despite his apparent skill in setting the poems for voice, the work as a whole is an indifferent mélange of styles, here and there evoking the nervous expressionism of the second Viennese school, but most often muddling through a less interesting mixture of soft-edged modernism, free-floating neo-Romantic tonality, winking allusions to popular music, and the loose gestures of the late avant-garde. Harbison's eclectic music is occasionally intriguing in short passages, but these are fleeting, and most of this long song cycle seems labored and too much of the same thing. There are occasional niceties of orchestration and subtle contrapuntal exchanges that Collage New Music plays with controlled expression and smooth technique; yet when mezzo-sopranos Janice Felty and Margaret Lattimore sing, the supporting music most often turns into a dense thicket of sustained pitches and dull, dissonant textures that neither flatter the vocalists nor enhance the poetry. On its face, Motetti di Montale seems earnest and important, and it is perhaps convincing enough to win several prestigious awards. Yet this work is less compelling than it appears, and too neutralized in its polystylism and intellectual coolness to win a wide audience.

Mottetti di Montale Libro 1, for mezzo-soprano & strings (or piano)
Lo saiCollage New Music3:26
Molti anniCollage New Music1:59
Brina sui vetriCollage New Music3:21
LontanoCollage New Music1:43
AddiCollage New Music2:01
La speranzaCollage New Music2:08
Mottetti di Montale Libro 2, for mezzo-soprano & strings (or piano)
Il saliscendiCollage New Music1:48
Ecco il segnoCollage New Music1:33
Il ramarroCollage New Music2:10
Perché tardiCollage New Music2:11
L'animaCollage New Music1:52
Ti liberoCollage New Music2:23
Mottetti di Montale Libro 3, for mezzo-soprano & strings (or piano)
La gondolaCollage New Music2:43
InfuriaCollage New Music1:38
Al primo chiaroCollage New Music2:05
Il fioreCollage New Music2:08
Mottetti di Montale Libro 4, for mezzo-soprano & strings (or piano)
La ranaCollage New Music3:05
Non recidereCollage New Music2:30
La cannaCollage New Music4:45
Ma cosi siaCollage New Music1:44

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