Gregory Berg has a new review of Mark Abel’s Spectrum album in the March/April 2023 issue of The Journal of Singing:
“It is good to have another recording of music by Mark Abel, a composer who has a lot to say and has some very intriguing ways of saying it. The collection at hand features a mix of vocal and instrumental works, and everything here is deeply engaging and unfailingly fresh.… an invigorating sense of new vistas being probed.
This may also be the most deeply personal recording that Abel has yet presented to the public, with several of the works contained herein springing quite directly from the composer’s life experience. The single clearest example of this is 1966… The texts of the first two songs are largely based on poetry that Abel wrote at the time, with some recent tweaks. This is gorgeous, impassioned music, and one can tell that it was very carefully crafted for mezzo soprano Kindra Scharich. Her singing is expressively generous and consistently beautiful… Jeffrey LaDeur partners her with unfailing sensitivity.
Scharich is also heard in Two Scenes from “The Book of Esther.” Abel’s liner notes describe this as “an opera in development,” and these two excerpts sound very promising.… Soprano Hila Plitmann sings with gleaming freshness and emotional openness. The second song is an invented confrontation between Esther and the ousted Queen Vashti that culminates in clashing sorrows. This is among the most demanding music on this disk, but Plitmann and Scharich are utterly fearless in the face of its challenges. It is the searing intensity of this scene that leads one to hope that Abel will someday complete what he and poet Kate Gale have begun.
The recording opens with perhaps the most colorful work of all, Trois Femmes du Cinema… The texts do a remarkable job of conveying the wonder of the cinema and the unique mystique of those who inhabit this world. …These are flamboyant, rhapsodic songs into which Abel pours a seemingly endless stream of musical ideas. Soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, whose voice and artistry has led her to most of the leading opera companies of the world, is exactly the kind of alluring artist that these songs both require and deserve. At the piano is Carol Rosenberger, who has been the lead pianist on the Delos label (and one of its leading artistic forces) since its founding in 1973. Her brilliant playing here represents a stirring and fitting conclusion to her distinguished career.
Abel has considerable gifts for writing vocal music, but it is safe to say that some of the most compelling moments on this disk are actually found in the instrumental pieces.… Abel’s liner notes are thorough and earnestly written.… The sound quality is as clear and crisp as we have come to expect from Delos…”—Gregory Berg, The Journal of Singing
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