Classical/New Music David DiChiera: Letters & Fantasies (Innova Recordings, August 25, 2017)

With material from a media release:

Classical/New MusicDavid DiChiera: Letters & Fantasies
(Innova Recordings, August 25, 2017)

Refueling the Motor City

Composers: David DiChiera
Performers: Angela Theis, Ivan Moshchuk, Annalise Dzwonczyk, Yury Revich, Matthew Konopacki, Berthold Brauer, Aleksey Shadrin

Buy the CD

With a resume that includes founding and leading a couple of major opera companies (Michigan Opera Theatre and Opera Pacific, not to mention directing the Dayton Opera Association and serving as president of Opera America), David DiChiera (b. 1935) can be forgiven for occasionally allowing his composing career to be overshadowed. Now, to celebrate his retirement at 82 his friends and colleagues have produced an album of his chamber works, Letters & Fantasies, that show “Dr. D” proudly wearing his composer hat.

The compositions span a period from 1963 to 2017, and include art songs about love, beauty, and endurance, along with an instrumental piece. DiChiera is best categorized as a neo-Romantic; his works a perfect marriage of emotion and modern sensibilities.

DiChiera’s story of dedication, perseverance, and talent, has become synonymous with the revival of Detroit and it is no coincidence that this album represents a grand synthesis of all that has striven for: supporting young, diverse, local talent (including pianist Ivan Moshchuk and vocalists Angela Theis, Annalise Dzwonczyk, and Matthew Konopacki) and international rising stars (such as Yury Revich playing the 1709 Stradivarius “Princess Aurora” violin, and cellist Aleksey Shadrin).

The release was recorded in the historic Jam Handy Film Studios in Detroit, a facility that General Motors used at one time to produce cartoons of all things. The trio of vocalists wring expression out of every note, with equally talented musicians to back them up. It's a modern expression of the best of the lyric tradition.

The Four Sonnets from the verses of Edna St. Vincent Millay are spare and lovely, using piano and voice, melodic - albeit not without dissonance - and evocative. Soprano Angela Theis delivers a beautifully fluid sense of expression with each note.

From Four Sonnets (1964/65) after verses by Edna St. Vincent Millay "Loving You Less Than Life" by David DiChiera, Angela Theis, Soprano, Ivan Moshchuk, Piano 

Along the same lines, and especially striking, are a trio of shorter pieces with lyrics by Richard Kubinski, a Detroit poet who died not long after writing the poems at age 20. Mezzo soprano Annalise Dzwonczyk makes gold out of a minamalist landscape.

Fantasy for violin and piano, from 1963 is brought to sparkling life by Ivan Moshchuk and Yury Revich playing the 1709 Stradivarius “Princess Aurora” violin.

Letter to Sarah (2015) feature baritone Matthew Konopacki in a part that is first spoken, then sung, accompanied by trumpet and piano. It's a soldier's letter home by Major Sullivan Ballou (1829-61) --as it happens, the last letter of a soldier to his wife. Ballou served in the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry during the American Civil War, and wrote the missive only a few days before he was killed.

The piece, like the instrumental Letter to Roxane (2017) for cello and piano, is romantic and expressive. Letter to Roxane is based on the theme from the opera Cyrano. Cyrano is DiChiera's opera in three acts to a French libretto by Bernard Uzan. It's inspired by the original play by Edmond Rostand.

The recording represents an impressive and substantial monument to Dichiera's work, centering as it does on the sheer and inescapable beauty of voice and of melody. Extensive liner notes by Ivan Moshchuk flesh out the recording and the artists on it, including lyrics to all the songs.

An appealing collection recommended for any lover of modern and classical music in the Western tradition.