Harbison: Mottetti di Montale

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Scott Paulin
Twenty years after John Harbison first composed the Mottetti di Montale, a song cycle for mezzo-soprano and piano, he completed the version arranged for chamber ensemble that is heard on this disc. Those two decades were eventful ones for Harbison: In 1980 he was a promising young composer, but by 2000, he had become a leading figure in American music, his many noteworthy commissions including The Great Gatsby for the Metropolitan Opera. The Mottetti, setting a sequence of Italian poems from the 1930s by Eugenio Montale, merge the flair for vocal writing that was evident from Harbison's earliest works with an inspired sense for instrumental color that renders the songs ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Scott Paulin
Twenty years after John Harbison first composed the Mottetti di Montale, a song cycle for mezzo-soprano and piano, he completed the version arranged for chamber ensemble that is heard on this disc. Those two decades were eventful ones for Harbison: In 1980 he was a promising young composer, but by 2000, he had become a leading figure in American music, his many noteworthy commissions including The Great Gatsby for the Metropolitan Opera. The Mottetti, setting a sequence of Italian poems from the 1930s by Eugenio Montale, merge the flair for vocal writing that was evident from Harbison's earliest works with an inspired sense for instrumental color that renders the songs far more ravishing than the voice-and-piano originals could allow. Montale's poems, recalling a lost romance through a series of highly charged images -- many of them musical in nature, like the "pianola of the damned" -- convey an aura of nostalgic and sometimes painful longing, well-suited to Haribson's expressive, neo-Romantic language, and although the songs can be divided into four "books" and performed separately, they definitely deserve to be heard as a whole. On this recording, Janice Felty is the mezzo-soprano soloist in the first two books, while Margaret Lattimore takes over for the remainder. Felty gave the world premiere of the original version of the Mottetti in 1981, and her familiarity with the music is evident in her authoritative performance here, but with Lattimore's slightly more inviting voice, the second half of the work shines even brighter. Throughout the multi-hued Mottetti, however, the virtuosic musicians of Boston-based ensemble Collage New Music provide Harbison's instrumental arrangement with all the rich and lucid beauty it deserves.
All Music Guide - Blair Sanderson
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.
New York Times - Anthony Tommasini
Just below the plush neo-Romantic surface, Mr. Harbison's music teems with astringent modernist harmonies, fractured counterpoint and mercurial shifts of mood.... Most of the performers here have worked with Mr. Harbison for many years, and their deep involvement comes through continually.

Just below the plush neo-Romantic surface, Mr. Harbison's music teems with astringent modernist harmonies, fractured counterpoint and mercurial shifts of mood.... Most of the performers here have worked with Mr. Harbison for many years, and their deep involvement comes through continually.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 5/24/2005
  • Label: Koch Int'l Classics
  • UPC: 099923754527
  • Catalog Number: 7545
  • Sales rank: 278,288

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1–6 Motetti di Montale Libro 1, for mezzo-soprano & strings - John Harbison & Collage New Music (14:38)
    Composed byJohn Harbison
    Performed byJanice Felty
    1. 1Lo sai
    2. 2Molti anni
    3. 3Brina sui vetri
    4. 4Lontano
    5. 5Addi
    6. 6La speranza
  2. 7–12 Motetti di Montale Libro 2, for mezzo-soprano & strings - John Harbison & Collage New Music (11:57)
    Composed byJohn Harbison
    Performed byJanice Felty
    1. 7Il saliscendi
    2. 8Ecco il segno
    3. 9Il ramarro
    4. 10Perché tardi
    5. 11L'anima
    6. 12Ti libero
  3. 13–16 Motetti di Montale Libro 3, for mezzo-soprano & strings - John Harbison & Collage New Music (8:34)
    Composed byJohn Harbison
    Performed byMargaret Lattimore
    1. 13La gondola
    2. 14Infuria
    3. 15Al primo chiaro
    4. 16Il fiore
  4. 17–20 Motetti di Montale Libro 4, for mezzo-soprano & strings - John Harbison & Collage New Music (12:04)
    Composed byJohn Harbison
    Performed byMargaret Lattimore
    1. 17La rana
    2. 18Non recidere
    3. 19La canna
    4. 20Ma cosi sia
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