PENTATONE has released a hybrid SA-CD compact disc album able to be played on different systems. Produced by the San Francisco Classical Recording Company and recorded in the acoustically perfect environment of Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts. The production-engineering team led by Job Maarse and Mark Donahue has done an impeccable job with the lovingly packaged CD
But why am I not speaking about the music and the musicians?
To be candid, I wanted to give the CD at least a second listening so as to attain some sort of critical objectivity and tone down my enthusiastic response to the music making of soprano Melody Moore and pianist Bradley Moore. But even, after a couple of listening sessions, I am hard put to find enough adequate words of praise for this pair of musicians.
Melody Moore is, first of all, a communicator, an essential requirement for any song recitalist. Assembling an album of 31 songs by five American composers could be a daunting task, not because there are not enough songs to go around- which there are – but because numbing sameness could set in the hands of a lesser artist. But throughout seven groupings of songs by Samuel Barber, Jake Heggie, Carlisle Floyd, Aaron Copland, and Gordon Getty, soprano Melody Moore and pianist Bradley Moore find an inexhaustible variety of vocal and pianistic colors to sustain the interest and engage the emotions of the listener. And that’s just the half of it.
With flawless (and mercifully!) American diction, Melody Moore conveys the poetry of medieval monks in English translations by various poets in Samuel Barber’s 1953 Hermit Songs, relishing the gentle humor of The Monk and His Cat, embodying the ecstatic awe of St. Ita’s Vision, and giving a straightforward and unmannered interpretation of this song classic.
Melody Moore includes two groups both by Jake Heggie: These Strangers (poetry by Emily Dickinson, Frederick Douglass, Martin Niermoeller, and Walt Whitman) and How Well I Knew the Light (poetry by Emily Dickinson). In both instances, Moore and Moore create wonders with Jake Heggie’s rapturously impassioned music.
Carlisle Floyd penned his remarkable The Mistery: Five Songs of Motherhood in 1960 for the late Phyllis Curtin. The touching poetry is by the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral in a respectfully no-nonsense translation from Mistral’ glorious Spanish by Anita K. Fleet. Carlysle Floyd sets it to sweepingly melodic music that calls for a powerful voice with a flair for drama and complete security above the staff. As in all of the selections in the album, Melody Moore delivers plenty of sound and rock-solid top notes, while Bradley Moore offers unstinting support at all dynamic levels.
Aaron Copland’s less familiar Four Early Songs were published posthumously in 1998. Set to poetry by Aaron Schaffer and an anonymous Arabic text, their music is quintessentially Copland: melodic, spiced up with dissonant undertones, always responsive to the text, which Melody Moore delivers with elegant assurance.
The compellingly dramatic music for an operatic setting of James Hilton’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips was written in 2016 by the philanthropist and composer Gordon Getty (yes, J. Paul’s son…) The selection shows Melody Moore vocally and dramatically at home in the aria Chips, darling, it’s started. The selections by Getty, a most gifted composer, continue with Three Welsh Songs, the playful Welcome Robin, the mini-drama Kind Old Man, and a poignant setting of All through the Night.
Moore and Moore end the album with two gorgeously sung and played settings of Deep River and Danny Boy by the same composer.
This brings me briefly to the subject of Moore’s voice, which almost escaped me because her singing is so much about the words being sung that one forgets to mention how beautiful her sound is. Melody Moore is, to my mind, an Italianate lyric-dramatic soprano, comfortably inhabiting a wide range that could deceive even the trained ear into calling her a mezzo-soprano (she is not.) She ascends to a high B more than once in the album without any fear, and is able to do a classic messa-di-voce (now loud, then soft, then loud again or vice-versa) at any spot in her range. The sound is creamy, with a moderately fast vibrato, and generous at any dynamic level. In short, this is a world-class voice.
Melody Moore studied voice at the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music. Next year she returns to the home of her Alma Mater to appear with the Cincinnati Opera in Dvořák’s Russalka. I hope that this extraordinary artist will be invited back again, hopefully to also appear with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and or with the May Festival, and perhaps to give a Master Class in the Art of Song to the CCM voice students who could learn much from her use of the voice and from her uncomplicated and honest way with songs.
And, if God willing, Bradley Moore could come too, well, that would be a welcome added boon.
Rafael de Acha http://www.Rafaelmusicnotes.com