American Record Guide Review: So Many Journeys

by Paul Cook | American Record Guide

The first half of this program derives its inspiration from the works – sonnets mostly – of Shakespeare. I can say without reservation or hesitation that they are nothing short of spectacular. Though they are brief, they are sung with affection and robust clarity. Joseph Summer (b. 1956) employs a standard – if dramatic – romantacism, particularly on the piano (Miroslav Sekera), though it’s nothing especially American in tenor.

The Dumb Show (2004), also derived from Shakespeare, is a series of piano pieces framed around a short interlude in the composer’s opera Hamlet (2006). It’s a deftly romantic work, with some off-key jazz maneuvers for the right hand that belie any sort of programmatic description that even remotely suggests Shakespeare. It’s a lucid and simple work – nothing wrong with that.

Summer’s Cello Sonata, 20 Variations on a Theme from the Hebdomad (2006) is a set of variations based on a baritone aria from his opera, Courting Disaster, itself based on sections of Boccaccio’s Decameron. Again, the impulse is towards simplicity and clarity of idea. Kellie Van Horn is the soprano here; Christian Van Horn takes on bass and baritone roles. Miroslav Sekera is the pianist, and Petr Nouzovsky plays the cello. A tight little ensemble and over an hour of smart, engaging music.