Collection: White Moon, Songs to Morpheus

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Crumb,Handel,Monteverdi,Purcell,Schwantner,Seeger,Villa-Lobos
LABELS: Nonesuch
WORKS: Night of the Four Moons; White Moon; Black Anemones; Bachianas Brasilieras
PERFORMER: Dawn Upshaw (soprano), Margo Garrett (piano), Sérgio Assad, Odair Assad (guitar); Members of the Orpheus CO
CATALOGUE NO: 7559-79364-2 DDD


Dawn Upshaw has proved herself an outstanding, even peerless, interpreter of 20th-century American song, particularly the work of Ives, Copland, Barber and Bernstein. This intriguingly conceived collection of songs inspired by sleep, night and the moon highlights the works of three more US composers: Ruth Crawford Seeger, Joseph Schwantner and George Crumb. And happily, Upshaw is once more on top form in this idiom.

Her voice is seductive and mysterious in Crawford Seeger’s atmospheric ‘White Moon’; thrillingly in control of the shimmering melismata that define Schwantner’s ‘Black Anemones’; and is both disquieting and strikingly clear-toned in Crumb’s extraordinary Night of the Four Moons.


Unhappily, the rest of the disc is not so successful. The ersatz Latin crooning that prefaces the song from Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas brasileiras may be the low point, but arias by Monteverdi, Handel and Purcell are also disappointing. Saccharine-sweet and marked by an oddly swooping style of ornamentation, they are presumably intended to sound somehow soothing, but the result is cloying. Claire Wrathall