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Album Review

Paul Sperry's 2012 release on Innova consists of two important performances separated by almost 23 years: William Bolcom's Open House, A Song Cycle to Seven Poems of Theodore Roethke, was recorded with Dennis Russell Davies and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for Nonesuch in 1975, and Robert Beaser's Songs from The Occasions of Eugenio Montale was recorded with Kenneth Klein and the New York Virtuosi in 1998. Despite the passage of time, Sperry's voice is strong and limber in both performances, and his powers of communication are well-matched in the two recordings, which display a wide range of moods and expressions, and not a few technical challenges. Yet there are important differences. Beaser's songs are scored for tenor and a septet of flute, clarinet, horn, violin, viola, cello, and piano, which is sparely used, while in Bolcom's cycle, the tenor is more substantially accompanied by a chamber orchestra. As a result, Beaser's music often calls for a quiet, intimate delivery, while Bolcom's is much more theatrical and extroverted. There is also the difference between the close-up digital recording of the 1998 performance and the analog sound of 1975, which puts Sperry at noticeable distance. The value of this CD to followers of these composers is quite high, because Open House was only ever available on LP and Songs from The Occasions appears never to have been commercially available.

Open House, Paul Sperry
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