HEGGIE Three Song Scycles
Best known for his operas, Jake Heggie is also a prolific writer of songs (over 250 to date), many of which form part of larger cycles such as those that feature on this disc.
These cycles give a good account of their composer’s relative strengths and failings. Natural Selection (1997) sets five poems by Gini Savage that chart a young woman’s search for her sense of self before finally attaining it within: a present-day take on Schumann’s Frauenliebe und -leben, perhaps? Songs and Sonnets to Ophelia (1999) investigates the nature of one who is all too easily written off as a victim of circumstance – Heggie’s own poem preceding three by Edna St Vincent Millay in which Ophelia ultimately comes to terms with her misfortune and, by doing so, transcends it. Much the longest of these three song-cycles, Eve-Song (1996) sets eight poems by Philip Littell in which the biblical Eve’s eloquent recollections of her life become fused with equally prescient comments on the fall from grace of humanity at large.
Throughout these cycles, Heggie reveals an adept handling of the voice-and-piano medium – for all that the vocal line could have benefited from more expressive variety and the piano-writing from greater tonal nuance. Nor are excursions into jazz and popular idioms free from inhibition or contrivance. Yet it would be wrong to deny the ready appeal of these songs, not least with Regina Zona and Kathleen Tagg as such sympathetic exponents. Certainly those who feel the American art-song to have ended with Ned Rorem will find much to enjoy here.