So Much Beauty
Reviews and Comments

   "A sensitive interpreter...We get 19 tracks and 75 minutes of unknown contemporary music here, and there is not a clinker in the lot. How often does that happen?

    "A WELCOME PROJECT TO GIVE THESE SONGS BY LARGELY UNKNOWN COMPOSERS A WIDER HEARING. ...performs the songs with appropriately gentle delicacy. She is unfailingly responsive and dedicated, as is her pianist." 
- Lawrence A. Johnson, GRAMOPHONE, July 2004

    This is an exceptionally fine collection of modern art songs, and much of this music has never before been recorded. An impressive range of mood and color is represented, yet the program hangs together beautifully.... The program is also a seamless whole because every song is lovingly and capably rendered by Ms. Houston and her superlative accompanist, Robert Jorgensen, with uncommon musicality and grace. The bright, vibrant timbre of the soprano's voice and her impassioned expressivity are strongly reminiscent of Beverly Sills...Ms. Houston and Mr. Jorgensen are the kind of caring and skilled musicians to which any composer would gladly entrust their work. These impressive performances are presented in a package distinguished by scrupulous attention to detail. The lyrics of all the songs are here along with well written biographies of each respective composer. When available, there are also written explanations from the composers about the particular songs that are part of this recording. Such first-person perspective is especially welcome for the most haunting song on the disk, "Before Winter," which Carol Sams composed in 2003 at a time when she feared that her son might be seriously ill. (Those fears, thankfully, proved to be unfounded.) The song is powerfully moving on its own terms, but even more so when one considers the shadow of heartbreak under which it was written.
Another highlight of the collection is the set of two songs by Hilary Tann for voice and oboe. This proves to be an exquisite combination of timbres that one would think would be exploited far more often. The spare texture seems to draw especially assured and expressive singing from Ms. Houston (with no hint of intonation trouble), and with oboist Shannon Spicciati she achieves true magic. Similarly impressive is Dan Locklair's "In the Almost Evening" for soprano, clarinet, and piano, which he wrote in the early 1980s for clarinetist Esther Lamneck. As the work opens, he uses the soprano almost like a second wind instrument in beguiling interplay with the clarinet over gentle undulating patterns of the piano. Eventually the voice begins to deliver the poignant text of poet Joy Kogawa with its theme of loneliness, and one realizes how perfectly apt the clarinet is for this work. For the second poem, "Snake Dance," the piano steps aside to allow the soprano and clarinet to engage in a rhapsodic duet that feels at times like an extended cadenza. Eventually the piano returns, bearing with it the restless longing of the opening section as the work comes full circle.
    Performance upon performance is rendered with a flawless sense of flow and style....Such praiseworthy singing is especially welcome when one is encountering rarities like Hundley's exquisite "Softly the Summer," a song written for Anna Moffo but the liner notes tell us sadly now out of print. This recording underscores the importance not only of performing brand new works, but also of uncovering neglected pieces and giving them new life. 
- Gregory Berg, THE JOURNAL OF SINGING, Nov./Dec., 2004 

    "Ms. Houston has an excellent high soprano voice and her accomplished interpretations of this eclectic selection of songs has depth and variety. The pianist, Robert Jorgensen, proves himself to be an excellent composer as well as performer in his song You Are, Vicky Edmonds' light-hearted exploration of a deep psychological message." 
- John Campbell, Art Song Update, May, 2004
The full review:

Seattle Times, March 7, 2004
    The radiant-voiced and very communicative soprano Janeanne Houston has assembled a remarkable collection of contemporary songs many of them premieres and recorded them here with pianist Robert Jorgensen. This repertoire offers huge variety, some breathtaking discoveries (including new pieces by Carol Sams, Dan Locklair and Lori Laitman), and yes so much beauty.    
- Melinda Bargreen, music critic

    "Every now and then a piece of music enters your awareness in a way that is simply uplifting. It reminds you that there is goodness and beauty available in the world. This entire recording is that way. It's a disk called 'So Much Beauty', aptly named, and features soprano Janeanne Houston and pianist Robert Jorgensen. They are joined by clarinetist Craig Rine in performing a work by Charlotte native, Dan Locklair. The piece is called 'In the Almost Evening.' It's a gorgeous and highly creative setting with poetry by Canadian poet, Joy Kogawa. Both the poetry and the music are stunning and highly enjoyable.....a breath of fresh air." 
- Jennifer Foster, WDAV FM, from the broadcast on February 21, 2004

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! for your beautiful singing of my three pieces on this recording. I will be publishing them this year and would like to dedicate them to you. They are so beautiful on the recording, as is everything else. You've done a bang-up job and you should be so proud! 
- Carol Sams, composer

    I've just received the CD and, of course, I listened to it immediately. It's *so* beautiful! The cover is lovely and the booklet is fine -- finely done. I love the way you've put it all together. And -- oh dear -- the performance is everything I could have wished. I have goosebumps still. Shannon is playing so well. It's wonderful to hear an oboe right in tune and with such a beautiful tone.It's such a treat to have such a true and wonderful performance. I can't quite believe it. Ever since your first e-mail you've brought joy and good feelings into my life. Do you do this for everyone? I can only thank you from the bottom of my heart.
- Hilary Tann, composer

    I just had to write immediately and tell you how very delighted I am with your IN THE ALMOST EVENING. It is simply gorgeous! You float effortlessly where necessary and are dramatic when necessary. Your vibrato is beautifully and musically adjusted as needed and your diction is excellent.
It's just so musical! The clarinet and piano form such a first-rate ensemble with you and the totality of it all is haunting. Of course, the splendid recording helps that! Congratulations and deepest thanks to you all and, especially, to you! ... It is a beautiful and lyrical recording. You should feel very good about it!
- Dan Locklair, composer

    I finished listening to the disc and it is lovely in all aspects -- music chosen, performances, design, sound, etc. You are a very expressive singer and your love for music and the world shines through.
    I listened first to my songs (of course), and was very pleased. Thank you so much for including my music on this CD. With regards to the other songs, I particularly loved the Jorgensen; I think you have a special feel for Finzi; and the Sams and Burge cycles were especially beautiful (the "Ahs" in the Burge were a knockout).
    Congratulations to you on a wonderful project. You should be very proud and I look forward to your next CD.
- Lori Laitman, composer

Personal comments used with permission.