Notes & Reviews:
McCartney's tried it; Costello, too. So have Sting, Peter Gabriel, and even Bernstein. But a maverick California composer named Mark Abel has created what may be the most elegant and persuasive attempt yet to marry classical and rock. So get ready for a unique and powerful listening experience. The Dream Gallery is an evocative, sophisticated and hard-hitting cycle of songs for soloists and chamber orchestra that explores the inner lives, struggles, illusions and home turf of 7 archetypal Californians. Uncover a new strain in American art song.
A former alternative rock musician, Abel writes rock-like percussion lines into his music, and part of the appeal of this song cycle is the collision between the small ensemble of classical instruments and the thoroughly contemporary language. Abel's seven songs are portraits of characteristic individuals in seven California communities... what makes them persuasive is the depth of characterization in the texts (which are Abel's own)... Abel deploys a different soloist, matched to the material, in each song... all the singers respond well to Abel's mixture of dramatic characterization and straightforward text declamation... These acid yet humane portraits of California will be recognizable to anyone who has lived there, or really to any American. A bit like a West Coast William Bolcom, but not much like anything else out there, this is most highly recommended.
This superb recording of composer Mark Abel's latest composition, The Dream Gallery, has already received the Award of Excellence (for Lyrics) and the Award of Merit (for originality and creativity), which is presented by Global Music Awards (GMA).... the song cycle is composed like a gallery of very colorfully painted portraits and pictures... it must be said that Mark Abel has an uncanny knack for musically capturing the atmospheres of these various topographies and terrains.
Mr. Abel has composed his own lyrics, which truly give a strong unity of vision to his composition as the texts meld perfectly with the music... I believe it is a recording you will enjoy and want to own... The music does indeed have the weight and sophistication of "classical music"... The cycle employs the gamut of classical voices... and all of the singers perform most admirably as does the La Brea Symphonietta under the fine direction of Maestra Sharon Lavery.
I enjoyed this song cycle much more than I expected. I found it profound and compelling in many ways, and I was enticed to multiple listenings.
Fanfare Magazine - Maria Nockin
Mark Abel's The Dream Gallery is a beautiful song cycle with a most interesting orchestral accompaniment. Like Richard Wagner and a few other composers who wrote their own libretti, Abel is as good a poet as he is a musician. As a result, his work demands expert vocal interpretation, and that includes acting with the voice. His cast is excellent and each singer responds well. Above all, kudos go to conductor Sharon Lavery, who has the responsibility for coordinating all the sections of this seven-part cycle. Most of the singers have rather generic voices, but they add enough emotional impact to their pieces to make each stand out. Here, you might need a handkerchief because Abel does not pause for political correctness. When Martha Jane Weaver sings the part of Luz in Soledad, she reminds us of the workers with menial jobs we pass every day but rarely see as individuals. The CD's sound is warm and clear. I think that anyone who is interested in modern vocal music will want to own this disc.
American Record Guide, July / August 2012
Mark Abel's Dream Gallery is a set of seven "California portraits" for voices and chamber orchestra; there is no date listed. A combination of classical and rock music, it seems less than either. The texts are the composer's own, and although the vocalists perform well, and the writing is competent, the tacky pop inspired lines, the cheap "surprise" harmonic modulations, and the other clichés make the work miss the mark.
Recording information: Citrus Studios, Citrus College, Glendora, CA.
Mark Abel calls his compositions postmodern art songs or alternative classical, and the stylistic pastiche those terms suggest is certainly present. A former alternative rock musician, Abel writes rock-like percussion lines into his music, and part of the appeal of this song cycle is the collision between the small ensemble of classical instruments and the thoroughly contemporary language. When was the last time you heard lines like "Pretty, but oh so green, I needed a mentor. I found one in Ken," or "We love the homeless down on Telegraph, somewhat less so on upper Solano," in classical settings? Abel's seven songs are portraits of characteristic individuals in seven California communities: Los Angeles, Taft (in Kern County), Berkeley (the subject of the withering satire exemplified by the second quotation above), San Diego, Richmond, Soledad, and Arcata. And what makes them persuasive is the depth of characterization in the texts (which are Abel's own), not the novelty. Abel deploys a different soloist, matched to the material, in each song; bass Carver Cossey as Lonnie, the disillusioned African-American migrant from Louisiana to Richmond, is a particular standout, as is Abel's setting here, incorporating spoken exclamations of disgust and knowing cynicism. But all the singers respond well to Abel's mixture of dramatic characterization and straightforward text declamation: he never pushes the words out of shape, and the texts included in the CD booklet are hardly necessary given the clear articulation of all seven soloists. These acid yet humane portraits of California will be recognizable to anyone who has lived there, or really to any American. A bit like a West Coast William Bolcom, but not much like anything else out there, this is most highly recommended. ~ James Manheim
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Works DetailsAbel, Mark : The Dream Gallery :: Seven California Portraits, song cycle for soloists & chamber orchestra
- Performer: Mary Jaeb
- Conductor: Sharon Lavery
- Ensemble: La Brea Sinfonietta
- Running Time: 11 min. 27 sec.
- Period Time: Contemporary
- Form: Vocal