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Walter Simmons
Fanfare, November 2009

With the exception of Robert Ward (still active at 92, last I heard), Lee Hoiby (now 83) is probably America’s oldest traditional neo-Romantic still composing. Although he has made valuable contributions to most musical genres, his songs, choral anthems, and operas represent his most distinguished efforts. Hoiby’s musical language places his best efforts in the stylistic vicinity of such composers as Samuel Barber and Ned Rorem, while his lesser efforts call to mind the music of Gian Carlo Menotti. But this is not to suggest that Hoiby doesn’t have a voice of his own…Hoiby’s music is even more resolutely tonal and diatonic than that of his three confreres, and more consonant harmonically as well, although fluid modulations, chromatic and modal ambiguities, and well-placed dissonances keep things active and interesting…Hoiby has composed approximately a hundred songs, and it is for these that he is probably best known…It is easy to discuss these songs collectively, but difficult to comment on them in detail, as their felicities are many—too many and too specific to itemize here—while there is relatively little with which to find fault. This is music, as I have written with respect to Barber, that is “beautiful,” as that term is understood by the average listener. Many of the songs—Where the Music Comes From (with a text by the composer), for example, or The Lamb (Blake)—are simple and direct, without the precious pretensions associated with “art songs” or “Lieder.” In other words, they are apt settings of melody to poetry, and though Hoiby’s writing for piano is exceedingly fluent and fluid, some of the accompaniments could be effectively transcribed for another accompanying instrument, such as guitar; and would be just as effective if sung without “operatic projection.” In fact, some are rather overbearing when given the latter treatment. When Hoiby cites Joni Mitchell among his chief influences, he is not being glibly perverse.

Other songs, such as Winter Hubris, Lied der Liebe, Autumn, Evening, Darkling Thrush, Goodbye, Goodbye World…are somewhat more oblique and sophisticated, but never cold, sterile, or remote…Hoiby’s songs display a remarkably consistent sense of good taste: though many of his texts deal with intense, vulnerable emotions, rarely, if ever, does he cross the line into kitsch. In addition, his workmanship, sensitivity to language, and wide range of expression are on a par with Barber’s, placing them among the most sensitive and rewarding of American art songs…sharing the program between two voices—a soprano and a baritone—offers a variety that is most welcome…Also, this disc includes Last Letter Home, the moving setting of a heartbreaking letter to his family from a U.S. Army sergeant stationed in Iraq, to be read by them in the event of his death, which occurred in 2003. Furthermore, the authoritative accompaniments provided by the composer—still a superb pianist—give a bit of an edge to that release…Lee Hoiby’s songs are part of the vocal repertoires of most singers who include music of the 20th century on their programs. Listeners with a taste for neo-Romantic lyricism are strongly urged to sample this music if they are not already familiar with it, and Naxos’s budget price keeps the risk at a minimal level.




Walter Simmons
Fanfare, November 2009

Julia Faulkner and baritone Andrew Garland—rather than one offers a bit more variety for the ear, while the composer’s own renditions of the piano accompaniments lend a self-evident authority…the recording is superb…

To read the complete review, please visit Fanfare online.



Joanne Sydney Lessner
Opera News, August 2009

The surprise on this disc is not how beguiling Lee Hoiby’s songs are but what an expressive pianist he is. The composer accompanies soprano Julia Faulkner and baritone Andrew Garland on selected songs, some dating as far back as 1950, some written as recently as 2007. Hoiby’s songs hide their complexity well. While there’s a straightforwardness to many of them, they are still intricately wrought and require serious vocal ability…Faulkner[’s]…sumptuously creamy voice is capable of delicate pianissimos, shimmering high climaxes and affecting phrasing, but her muddy diction often obscures the specific thought she’s expressing…Garland brings a fuller, caressing sound and more point of view to the cycle I Was There: Five Poems of Walt Whitman, especially the stirring “Oh Captain! My Captain!” and “Joy, Shipmate, Joy!”…Faulkner gives an impassioned rendering of “Lady of the Harbor,” a brief, but potent setting of Emma Lazarus’s famous paean to the Statue of Liberty, and manages a delicate tenderness in “The Lamb.” Faulkner is very much at home in the Straussian “Lied der Liebe” and the jazzy, mercurial “Nuits,” and she delivers the oldest and youngest songs, “Pierrot” (1950) and “A Pocket of Time” (2007) beautifully. She is at her most direct in Hoiby’s catchiest tune, the folksy anthem “Where the Music Comes From,” a legitimate earworm.



Robert A Moore
American Record Guide, May 2009

Lee Hoiby (b 1926) has written two acclaimed operas, Summer and Smoke and A Month in the Country, but he is best known for his 100 songs. This collection of 22 reveals a composer who creates music that is beautifully attuned to a great variety of texts.

‘Lied der Liebe’ (1984), with a Holderlin text, sounds German; ‘Nuits’ (2004) sounds French; ‘A Pocket of Time’ (2007), the title song of the disc, is a setting of a text by Elizabeth Bishop that suggests the sound of the American musical theater. His ardent I Was There: Five Poems of Walt Whitman (1988) concludes with an ecstatic setting of ‘Joy, Shipmates, Joy’. ‘Where the Music Comes From’ is a sentient setting of his own words expressing the deep joy of living life to the full. A gentle and tender setting of ‘The Lamb’ and a spirited setting of ‘Jabberwocky’ further demonstrate Hoiby’s range as a composer of great ingenuity. Leontyne Price was a major champion of his music, and three songs from the collection Songs for Leontyne are included here. Hoiby’s songs consistently take flight with soaring vocal lines of both grace and grandeur and accompaniments full of coloristic energy; his songs pulsate with life.

Hoiby studied piano with Gunnar Johansen and Egon Petri, but was more interested in composing than performing. The influence of his composition teachers Menotti and Barber is evident in his music. The composer’s deft and nimble accompaniment ensures that we hear the songs as he wants them heard. There aren’t enough options for hearing Hoiby’s music, so if you want to hear a good sampling of his songs, this is an excellent place to turn. His singers do justice to these songs; both sing with assured technique and felicitous tone.



Robert A Moore
American Record Review, May 2009

Lee Hoiby (b 1926) has written two acclaimed operas, Summer and Smoke and A Month in the Country, but he is best known for his 100 songs. This collection of 22 reveals a composer who creates music that is beautifully attuned to a great variety of texts.

‘Lied der Liebe’ (1984), with a Holderlin text, sounds German; ‘Nuits’ (2004) sounds French; ‘A Pocket of Time’ (2007), the title song of the disc, is a setting of a text by Elizabeth Bishop that suggests the sound of the American musical theater. His ardent I Was There: Five Poems of Walt Whitman (1988) concludes with an ecstatic setting of ‘Joy, Shipmates, Joy’. ‘Where the Music Comes From’ is a sentient setting of his own words expressing the deep joy of living life to the full. A gentle and tender setting of ‘The Lamb’ and a spirited setting of ‘Jabberwocky’ further demonstrate Hoiby’s range as a composer of great ingenuity. Leontyne Price was a major champion of his music, and three songs from the collection Songs for Leontyne are included here. Hoiby’s songs consistently take flight with soaring vocal lines of both grace and grandeur and accompaniments full of coloristic energy; his songs pulsate with life.

Hoiby studied piano with Gunnar Johansen and Egon Petri, but was more interested in composing than performing. The influence of his composition teachers Menotti and Barber is evident in his music. The composer’s deft and nimble accompaniment ensures that we hear the songs as he wants them heard. There aren’t enough options for hearing Hoiby’s music, so if you want to hear a good sampling of his songs, this is an excellent place to turn. His singers do justice to these songs; both sing with assured technique and felicitous tone.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2009

In the world of winners and losers, this disc of music by the eighty-three year old Lee Hoiby is an absolute winner, and a revelation to those not familiar with his music. Born in the States in 1926 and a student of Menotti, Milhaud and Barber, his search for lyric beauty found him swimming against the tide of atonality that was sweeping the world. It left him largely working in isolation and out of favour. He has never wavered, his choice of poets—including Walt Whitman, William Blake, Thomas Hardy and Lewis Carol—have provided the inspiration, and they could have hardly hoped for a more receptive composer. Above all, he knows and understands the voice, its requirements and limitations, and writes within those limits. But it was his early days as a pianist, and his years playing Schubert, that brought such a proactive role for the keyboard, playing a major role in colouring such works as the dramatic, Five Poems of Walt Whitman. In the celebrated soprano, Julia Faulkner, and American baritone, Andrew Garland, the songs certainly have two singers who project with a mix of beauty and angst as the texts require. At the age of eighty-one, when this disc was made, Hoiby shows he is still a world class accompanist, often in music that needs nimble fingers. The disc contains twenty-two tracks, but Hoiby has composed over eighty songs and is still adding more. How I wish that Naxos would commit to a complete recording. Sound quality is good.






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