Beauty Intolerable: Songs of Sheila Silver
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A stellar group of singers and pianists performs art songs by noted American composer Sheila Silver.

Sheila Silver has written in a wide range of mediums, from solo instrumental to large orchestral works, from opera to feature film scores. She is the recipient of numerous awards and commissions, including an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Composer Award, the Rome Prize, and the Prix de Paris, among many others. She is Professor Emeritas of Music at Stony Brook University. This recording features song cycles including Beauty Intolerable, based on the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay, and a cycle using fragments of texts from Sappho, along with a nocturne for solo piano. The stellar cast of performers includes Lucy Fitz Gibbon, Dawn Upshaw, Gilbert Kalish, Ryan McCullough, Stephanie Blythe, Kayo Iwama, Sidney Outlaw, Warren Jones, Deanne Meek, Christopher Cooley, Risa Renae Harman, and Timothy Long.
Contents:
Sheila Silver, composer
Beauty Intolerable, A Songbook based on the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay
Lucy Fitz Gibbon (soprano); Risa Renae Harman (soprano); Dawn Upshaw (soprano); Deanne Meek (mezzo-soprano); Christopher Cooley (piano); Gilbert Kalish (piano); Kayo Iwama (piano); Timothy Long (piano); Ryan McCullough (piano)

Sheila Silver, composer
On Loving
Dawn Upshaw (soprano); Gilbert Kalish (piano)

Sheila Silver, composer
Transcending
Sidney Outlaw (baritone); Warren Jones (piano)

Sheila Silver, composer
Nocturne
Gilbert Kalish (piano)

Sheila Silver, composer
Chariessa
Lucy Fitz Gibbon (soprano); Ryan McCullough (piano)

Sheila Silver, composer
Four Songs from the Beauty Intolerable Songbook
Stephanie Blythe (contralto); Kayo Iwama (piano)

Review:
"…Silver has written other song cycles, though nothing as extensive and complex as her Millay songbook. This new two-CD set takes a long look at Silver’s work, and includes “On Loving,” written in 2011, in memory of Diane Kalish (which includes another setting of a Millay poem); “Transcending,” written in 1995, in memory of Michael Dash; and “Chariessa,” a group of settings from fragments of poetry by Sappho, which dates from 1977-78. Millay also was inspired by Sappho, who appears in some of her poetry. All things work in harmony, cacophony, and melody here. The CD set also includes a short suite of four songs drawn from “Beauty Intolerable,” arranged for contralto Stephanie Blythe… And, just to keep things interesting, there is a solo piano work, “Nocturne,” commissioned for Gilbert Kalish’s Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and premiered by him in 2015. He plays it brilliantly on this CD set.…It is very interesting to hear the progress of the composer’s style from the mid-1970s to today. What changes most is the complexity of settings, from the radically progressive of the past to the overwhelmingly discordant of the present. Her musical work is consistent; however, she brings more underscoring into the recent work and the final impact of the poems she has chosen to work with is often lessened through the layered musicality she employs. When I listen to “Beauty Intolerable,” I am swept into foreign worlds that alter with each hearing. For pure rendering of texts, I prefer “Transcending,” which uses the poetry of W.B. Yeats, H.D. Thoreau, and Paul Laurence Dunbar. Also, the baritone voice of Sidney Outlaw brings both a gravity and a graveness to these songs which clearly make them resound in memory. In much the same way, Stephanie Blythe’s deeper tones make her quartet of songs from the principal work cleaner and clearer than the soprano renderings in the full work. Both of these short song-groups should receive many performances. Upshaw’s work in “On Loving,” with texts by Millay, Shakespeare, and Kahlil Gibran, is superb. She sings these songs with a joyous ring that makes even the most solemn lyric pay off beautifully: “For I never saw true beauty till this night.” This collection of songs from an inspired composer will often grace my player. It will take many hearings to set them all in my mind and memory…" (Berkshire Edge)
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