Notes & Reviews:
Goddesses is the third offering in Navona Records' The Shakespeare Concerts Series, which presents several works by composer Joseph Summer from his collection of settings of Shakespearean scenes, sonnets and soliloquies, Oxford Songs. These particular works are reflections on feminine divinity, from the literal to the metaphorical to the figurative aspects of this concept. Summer's deep knowledge of Shakespeare's works and rich compositional technique produce a musical and literary experience that adds layers of insight to Shakespearean characters and themes.
American Record Guide, July/August 2015
Goddesses, the third program, presents six settings of texts about strong, idealized, or tragic women. Of these five volumes I recommend this as a good place to start for two reasons: (1) all six works are by Summer, and show him at his most varied and dramatic; and (2) it employs the largest array of instruments and the best singers of the series, who turn in amazing virtuoso performances. The program begins with a sensational 22- minute setting of 'Honor, Riches, Marriage- Blessing' from The Tempest. As Iris, Jessica Lennick's stratospheric singing is stunning; she tosses off gleaming high E-flats and Fs. Kellie Van Horn as Ceres offers an effective low voice balance to Iris. Sereka's virtuosic pianism accompanies the thunderous dramatic entrance of Juno (sung by Andrea Chenoweh). The three women join at the end to sing a jubilant wedding blessing. Volume 3 is worth getting just to hear this, but everything else is unfailingly impressive. A tumultuous setting of the sonnet 'In the Old Age Black Was Not Counted Fair' for vocal quartet, solo horn, and strings is followed by a rocking siciliano style setting of the sonnet 'Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?' for mezzo, solo flute, and strings. Mezzo Gigi Mitchell-Velasco is brilliant in Juliet's 'Gallop Apace you Fiery-Footed Steeds' with its unusual scoring of horn and harpsichord. 'If Music Be The Food of Love' for vocal quartet is striking for its accompaniment of horn quartet and strings. The program concludes with 'There Is a Willow Grows aslant a Brook' heard in Program 2 but this time with Van Horn as the mezzo.