Monday November 5, 2012

KEENE, N.H.

Edie Adams -- Even as I type these words in the middle of October, I hear on the news that stores are already putting up Christmas displays. So it is certainly not too early to report on a CD from Omnivore Recordings, titled "The Edie Adams Christmas Album." This fine comedienne and singer was known for being the wife of Ernie Kovacs and more or less stood in his shadow in their radio and television shows. But she was allowed to sing and share in the comedy.

To be honest, I thought I would be hearing a CD transfer of some old LP recording. Alas, the 15 songs on this disc are excerpted from the soundtracks of their broadcasts and telecasts. The very first track, "Santa Claus is comin’ to town," is prefaced by some barely intelligible dialogue between Kovacs and some extra that should have been better cut out altogether.

The sound of old transcripts is pretty poor and the piano is far too loud and sounding (although I am sure it wasn’t) out of tune. Hence, Edie’s voice is not heard at its best; and Ernie’s joining her in "Household Holiday Blues" adds nothing to the enjoyment of the rendition.

Among the other selections are "The Christmas Song," "I Wonder as I Wander," "White Christmas," "Blue Christmas" and "Winter wonderland." There are one or two unfamiliar items, the rest being what we will be hearing blasted out of loudspeakers of malls for longer than they are welcome. (It’s the Scrooge in me!)

But all in all, this CD is a rarity, and many might enjoy it despite its technical faults.

Colors of Feelings -- About a hundred years ago, Claude Debussy took three poems of Francois Villon and set them to music. My favorite is the second, in which Villon has his mother at prayers express her devotion to her beliefs. There is a section in the middle in which the music swells to show the swelling emotions in her heart. The moods of the other two pieces are in stark contrast to that middle piece.

But alas, the inspiration in modern composers to set poetry to music might be the same but their approaches are quite different from Debussy’s and the results can be quite disappointing.

So when I began to play "Colors of Feelings" on a Delos CD, I had only the slightest hope that I was in for an uplifting experience. But Hope was the last in Pandora’s jar of evils. I say no more.

The program here consists of three song cycles, featuring the music of Philip Lasser. The first is "In Colors of Feelings," consisting of four poems by Wynelle Ann Carson; the second, "Les visages de l’amour," take six French poems for its material, one of which is by Paul Verlaine. I apologize to those who find great beauty in these 10 pieces, but they are all slow, lacking any musical development, and after a while each sounds like all the others.

I have some literary interest in "Nicolette et Aucassin," required reading in my old Medieval Lit classes. Here, he story is reduced to six passages in modern French, all but one of which is introduced by a narration in English by actor Michael York. Again, I find no drama in any of the sung passages, except for an occasional spoken phrase. In short, what all of these cycles lack, that Debussy’s poems are so rich in, is drama.

But what if Lasser was not after drama? What if he wanted to set up a dreamy atmosphere? After all, how dramatic can the color of feelings (it sounds like the color of quarks in quantum physics) be? But every listener must bring his or her own preferences to any artistic creation. Mine do not very much appreciate this recording.

The singers, Elizabeth Futral and Susanna Phillips, are very good and with Margo Garrett at the piano they all do what they can to realize the composer’s intentions.

Note: Please plan to see the Raylynmor Opera production of "The Mikado" at the Colonial Theatre in Keene on Nov. 16 and 17, at 7:30 p.m., and a 2 p.m., matinee on Nov. 18. Details will follow in the Reformer before opening.

Frank Behrens reports on classical and Broadway music as well as recordings of books and plays for the Arts & Entertainment section.