Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

LEO SMIT (1921-) Song settings of poems by Emily Dickinson  Rosalind Rees (soprano)/Leo Smit (piano) rec Astoria, June 1997 BRIDGE 9080 [65.42]


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Song settings of poems by Emily Dickinson

Three song cycles - The ecstatic pilgrimage

1. Childe Emilie (1989) 29.42

2. The Celestial Thrush (1988)

3. The White Diadem (1989)

Leo Smit was a pupil of Kabalevsky, José Iturbi and Nicholas Nabokov. His First Symphony was recorded commercially with the Boston SO conducted by Charles Munch. His friends during his studies in Rome were Alexei Haieff, Harold Shapero and Lukas Foss. The present disc is concerned with a more intimate side of his output and also one of much more recent provenance than the 1956 symphony. The thirty three songs here are all settings of Emily Dickinson. Surprisingly the songs despite their origin and their recent dates sound remarkably English - close to Finzi and C.W. Orr respectively in their Hardy and Housman settings. This is especially true in the first collection. Dickinson's words are a joy and phrases such as 'Softened by time's consummate plush' (5) ring and burn in the memory. Rosalind Rees is fine of accent and clear of enunciation - a singer who demonstrates an intelligence and sensitivity in performance. Smit's programme notes teem with recollection and a roster of jewelled names.

The second two cycles are more like Britten in style but still there are a wealth of sensitive moments when the song reaches straight out of the loudspeakers and touches and stirs the listener as in I Shall Keep Singing (26). Full texts, notes, good recording and fine playing and singing. Recommended to anyone at all taken with songs in the English language. Smit's mastery is patent in every bar and breath.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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