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Thursday, August 30, 2018

Mark Abel, Time and Distance

As I have lived my life and I will admit I have, and not for any short time so far either...I realize that there are certain things that are an acquired taste, that not every human is fated to appreciate, that in many ways go against a prevailing view of what it is to be "cool" or "popular." The contemporary lieder or song is probably such a thing. In the house I reside in I can guarantee that if I put on such a genre of music I will be subjected to commentary of an unappreciative sort. No less than if I were to play an Albert Ayler recording when he was especially energetic in his expressiveness. It has not stopped me from listening nor will it. I might be wrong about some things but in this case I am sure of myself. I am correct! Some people may hate the late string quartets of Beethoven. Well. It is their loss.

So one is rewarded in the exploration of such musical territory with riches at times, sometimes very exceptionally so, times that make it all worthwhile. I speak today of such a thing, namely  composer Mark Abel's new program of World Premier Recordings of his songs, Time and Distance (Delos 3550). These are most definitely songs for our time, Modern surely, not outgoingly in the sense that they are not in an avant garde mode so much as they resound with a most thoroughgoing, advanced harmonic-melodic musicality. They say lyrically something for our time as well. Not sentimental, artful yet not self-consciously so. The words are alternately by the composer, by Kate Gail and by Joanne Regenhardt.

The songs and song cycles, five of them,  are set for soprano (Hila Plitmann), mezzo-soprano (Janelle DeStefano), plus piano (Tali Tadmor or Carol Rosenberger) and are joined by percussion (Bruce Carver) on one, organ (the composer) on another. The performances are excellent. Ms. Plitmann to me is especially captivating, but that is not to say Ms. DeStefano is not. She is.

These are songs to grow into. I find them the more sublime the more I listen to this program. There is an endless musicality to them that never grows stale. They are I believe milestones in song for today, and to me very beautiful indeed. So I recommend strongly that you hear then.

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