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The opening piece on the disc is one of Anderson's most single-minded, yet strongest pieces. Entitled Quilt Music, it is an extended minimalist-influenced piece for solo piano, inspired by the great American tradition of quilting. Indeed the work has a wonderfully 'homespun' gentle energy to it. The booklet notes quote Anderson as saying that, as in a 'crazy quilt', one never knows what is coming next. Although it is nearly 25 minutes long, it pleases for its entire duration [listen -- track 1, 0:00-0:59].

The next offerings are three song cycles. Cat Songs is a vocal cycle on cat poems by Palmer Cox, William Blake, Emily Dickinson, Jonathan Swift, and two anonymous texts. Dreaming Fields is a setting of three 'silly' children's poems by Eugene Field. The final cycle, Harlem Songs, uses poetry of Gwendolyn Bennett, Countee Cullen, Sterling A Brown, and Georgia Douglas Johnson. To the voice and piano, Anderson adds a jazzy double bass for this third cycle.

The text settings are always appropriate, although there is a certain sameness across all the songs -- regardless of their subject matter. Also, the rather strange 'conversational' vocal timbre of baritone Keith Borden grates a bit by the end of the cycles. Still, he is clearly committed to the music and presumably (since the recordings were composer-supervised) represents Anderson's intentions for the works.

Following the song cycles are four very short works for violin and piano. Belgian Tango is a gentle example of that form, and Dr Blood's Mermaid Lullaby is a slightly 'off-kilter' lyrical excursion. Tale No 1 is an exciting folk-influenced fiddle-piece [listen -- track 17, 0:00-0:39], whereas Tale No 2 is more introverted.

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Copyright © 30 July 2006 Carson P Cooman, Cambridge USA


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