“Each of these three song cycles — given their first recorded performances on this Delos disc — displays composer Ben Moore’s aptitude for psychologically probing yet undeniably appealing storytelling. … Paul Appleby’s interpretation of Dear Theo seems fully realized: with his youthful tenor, Appleby applies the humanity and complexity of the wounded painter to Moore’s music. … So Free Am I is six settings of poems by women spanning more than 2,000 years. … Moore has compiled the twenty-first century’s response to Schumann’s Frauenliebe und -leben. … It begins with a skeletal texture and a melody oppressed by intervals that drop like slowly falling teardrops. Soprano Susanna Phillips whispers her anguish to herself until her voice opens into throat-splitting cries. … The third cycle on the album is a setting of Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale.” Baritone Brett Polegato assumes the role of the poet, reciting in melody Keats’s long poem with a bright, open sound. … Nearly all the songs are crowned with magnificent preludes, interludes and postludes that set the scene like a grand nineteenth-century landscape portrait, with pianist Brian Zeger functioning as J. M. W. Turner. … an album of dreams, explorations and exultations.” —Steven Jude Tietjen, Opera News
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