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Friday, March 26, 2021

James Dashow, Songs from a Spiral Tree, The Vocal Works, High Modern Classics


Maybe like me you do not know a lot about composer James Dashow. The current two-CD set will help set you straight.. It is titled Songs from the Spiral Tree: The Vocal Works (Ravello RR8046 2-CDs).

This is all-hands-on-deck High Modern song grouping, five in all, that come out of the tradition of Schoenberg, Webern, Boulez and beyond. Dashow also studied the music of Dallapiccola at some length, and that influence is no doubt also in there as a general factor. 

There is a pronouncedly rangy, full throated, acrobatic vocal style and a thoughtful instrumental and/or electronic accompaniment, all mind expanding, carefully and masterfully crafted with a sure hand. He was one of the very first to work with computer music and some of the songs feature some very imaginative and skillfully executed computer electronic parts, a high point of the program, surely. 

The poetic song texts include some of our finest Modernists--with Theodore Roethke featured on "Songs for a Spiral Tree," John Ashberry on "Second Voyage" and "Ashberry Setting," and John Berryman on "Some Dream Songs." Text and music match nicely, perfectly even.

The performances are excellent, with some beautiful singing from Constance Beavon, Lisa Pierce, Sonia Visentin, Joan Logue and George Shirley. The instrumental parts for flute (Lauren Weiss or Jayn Rosenfeld), harp (Lucia Bova), piano (James Winn, Aldo Orveito, or Giancarlo Simonacci) and violin (Mario Buffa) are excellently played and beautifully written.

Anyone who loves the vocal arts and High Modernism will find this one very good to hear, I would think. Bravo James Dashow!

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