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Classical Music Review

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Composers: Ricky Ian Gordon and Jake Heggie
Based on Poems by: Emily Dickinson and Philip Littell
Performed by: Emily Sternfeld-Dunn (soprano) and Amanda Pfenninger (piano)
Label: Navona Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 13 April 2018

For her debut album on Parma recordings She, Emily Sternfeld-Dunn serves as the voice of two of history’s strongest female characters. The poetic musings in the lyrics soar with Sternfeld-Dunn’s unmistakable soprano under the current of the tender, delicate melodies performed by pianist Amanda Pfenninger. Split into two mini-albums, She serves as a definitive recording that both showcases Sternfeld abilities as a vocalist and preserves the compositions for educational use...

If you're not a fan of aria performances then She won't be for you. Personally, while I enjoy the occasional opera, or aria production, it's not my preference of choice. What you can't ignore is that Emily Sternfeld-Dunn really immerses herself in her subject. This is a beautiful recording full of passion and plenty of emotion.

The first collection, titled Too Few the Mornings Be (Eleven Songs for Soprano and Piano), is composed by Ricky Ian Gordon. Gordon complimented his compositions with the poems of Emily Dickinson. Despite the relatively short run-times of these tracks, Sternfeld-Dunn takes the poet’s philosophical themes and wraps them in raw emotion as though pleading for answers to life’s biggest questions.

The second half of this album, Eve-Song, features music by Jake Heggie and text by Philip Littell. Here, Heggie creates a moving soundtrack to Littell’s poems about the biblical Eve. The composition is a monodrama. The longer compositions allow Sternfeld-Dunn to embrace the character of Eve. She employs her vocal melodies like ancient chants exploring moods and feelings of wonderment, yearning, and even humour.

As I mentioned before, fans of aria's and opera in general will find much to enjoy here. Those who don't enjoy that medium will find little here to change their musical taste.


Darren Rea

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