A Certain Slant of Light: Songs on Poems by Emily Dickinson
Songs on Poems by Emily Dickinson by Copland, Getty, Heggie and Tilson Thomas
Lisa Delan (soprano); Marseille Philharmonic Orchestra/Lawrence Foster
Pentatone PTC 5186 634 (hybrid CD/ SACD) 52:10 mins
The poems of Emily Dickinson – music-loving, ailing, death-steeped – draw on the rhythms of hymn and folk-poetry, and positively invite musical setting. This recital of orchestrated songs, some specially made for this recording, includes Aaron Copland’s much-loved Eight Poems of Emily Dickinson, Jake Heggie’s 2014 set of five songs Newer Every Day, Gordon Getty’s Four Dickinson Songs (2008) and five settings by Michael Tilson Thomas. Heggie’s unchallenging style sits easily alongside the Copland, as do the slenderer Getty settings (which date from 1981). However, while Tilson Thomas’s settings also share the dominant popular idiom, his spacious text-setting and assured, imaginative orchestrations compellingly evoke the oblique, revelatory quality of Dickinson’s verse.
Lisa Delan, a committed champion of American art song, has a technique which admirably suits the sentimental-humorous style of this repertoire, often recalling music theatre. The glowing, sparkling orchestral sound is a good foil to her, especially in Tilson Thomas’s settings. The liner note, apart from Delan’s jarringly chummy reference to ‘Emily’ in her introduction, conveys some useful information, and Dickinson’s idiosyncratic, expressive use of hyphens and capitalisation is faithfully rendered.