As the local world ever remains within our sites necessarily, so then what life demands of us can regulate how much we can do at any moment. That in the past year I have nearly completed my first draft of a 1,000 page prose-poetry volume as the first in a five-volume sequence on music and life, so necessarily I have modified how much time I have spent on reviews. As I start to get my head above water I’ve been able to identify some of the better review CDs I have been sent over the past year that I have yet to cover. One of them certainly is the two-CD set of vocal settings of two classic poetry texts, William Blake and Edgar Allen Poe’s Songs of Innocence and The Raven (MSR Classics MS 1799) as performed beautifully by the Raven Consort of vocalists and chamber instrumentalists.
As it so happens I dearly love both poets and both works, as I do also find the idea of such settings good, like I love Vaughan William’s settings of the Blake, even though that might make me all the more critical of anyone’s attempt to make further settings. Perhaps I am. After a good number of listens I must day however that these appeal and surprise and make for memorable music regardless of what has been done or how challenging it is to do right by it all after so much water has gone under our musical bridges.
This is lyrical fare, sometimes ravishing so, and in the main it has a Pomo jauntiness at times that charges our batteries and does away with a heavy ponderousness, yet still has a pinch of gravitas as needed. What captivates and beguiles is the obvious inventive strength of every bit of White’s settings. Nothing is exactly High Modernist but you engage and if you are like me it all works so well, you in the end care nothing for hanging on to some style directives and just immerse your ears in the very brilliant tunefulness.
I must in the end recommend this set to those who love vocal settings and do not insist that the music follow a radically new-or-nothing sort of path. Like some Bernstein, White could perhaps find it in hi, write a Broadway Musical that stood the test of time? That is a tall order. but this music stands out as strong on striking melodic charm and maybe some day he will give us that as well. The performances are wonderful, the music endearing. Bravo for all that,