It is refreshing to encounter a composer with enough confidence in his own talent to write what's in his ear and heart with uninhibited, ingenuous candor. Steven Mercurio has conducted at the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic, but it is as a composer that, in his own words, he expresses "the more intimate details of what I see and feel in life," and strives to "touch the soul of internal emotional struggles." Written between 1980 and 2000, most of these seven songs are slow and predominantly melancholy; the music is clearly influenced by Mercurio's work with opera (echoes of Puccini, but without his luscious melodies); the orchestrations owe more to Hollywood, with harp glissandi, throbbing, tremolo strings and chirping woodwinds. Some songs seem all static instrumental texture, supporting a monotonal vocal line. The poems are romantic, dreamy, yearning; two are lullabies. Five are in English, including one by the composer himself; Andrea Bocelli contributes two lengthy Italian texts and sings one of the songs. The longest, most ambitious piece on Many Voices is the earliest: "Serenade for Tenor and Orchestra" in six stanzas with an orchestral prelude, postlude, and several interludes including a waltz. It tells the story of a failed love affair, rising from bitter disillusionment to passionate lament, which the music underlines with high, strident strings, blaring trumpets, bangs and crashes, piling climax upon climax until the final fade-out. Mercurio thanks his "special friends for lending their voices" to the project, and indeed no composer could ask for more persuasive advocates. Quilico stands out for his vocal and musical simplicity, Martínez for her warm, velvety voice and expressiveness; Villazón, a fine tenor, does not seem quite at home in the English language. --Edith Eisler
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Member CD Reviews
(KathleenMarie) from WALDPORT, OR
Reviewed on 1/8/2007...
I received two copies for Christmas. It is wonderful. Mercurio is the conductor for the Prague symphony. The singers are spectacular, Andre Bocelli, Sumi Jo, and others. It is very relaxing as well.
Lush, musically expressive and emotional, and at times roman
Linda R. | Decatur, Georgia | 09/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Lush, musically expressive and emotional, and at times romantic. Very romantic. A collection of truly beautiful music that's full of love. Love for a love interest. Love for your children. Love for a spouse... and a little sexual desire thrown in for good measure.
Perhaps a visitor to this CD description might ask... Mercurio ? Who is this guy anyway ? ... and any good search engine will bring up a plethora of information about this conductor. Trained at Julliard, apprenticed at the Metropolitan Opera and New York Philharmonic. Accomplished opera and symphonic conductor and last, but certainly not least, composer. A list much to long to cite here. You might want to check out his website and see for yourself. I remember reading an interview about Steven in Opera News and one of the things that sticks in my mind was a story about his training at Julliard. One of the instructors in composition was handing out scores for the opera Salome and when he got to Steven, Steven said he didn't need one because he already knew it. The teacher was skeptical of course and proceeded to test him. It turned out that Steven, in fact, did not need the score. He knew the entire opera by heart and threw every cue exactly where it needed to be ! One more tidbit about the composer. There are only 3 composers, to my knowledge, that have written endings to Puccini's unfinished opera, Turandot. Maestro Franco Alfano, Maestro Luciano Berio .... and yes. Maestro Steven Mercurio. I have heard the first two endings .... and I hope and pray that one day I might be able to hear Maestro Mercurio's version.
When people write, whether it be music, a poem or a full length novel, there is usually a *reason* the person penned it. Some type of inspiration for setting the tune or text on paper so that ultimately, someone else other than the author or composer might enjoy, understand or empathize with the work. I personally appreciate it very much when composers/writers take the time to explain their inspiration or reason for writing what they wrote as Maestro Mercurio did in the liner notes for this CD. It gives us a little insight about the person doing the writing. It also makes the author or composer vulnerable as I believe such inspirations come from the depths of ones soul. Thank you Maestro Mercurio for baring yours.
A little bit about each piece:
"A White Rose" from a poem by John Boyle O'Reilly
Gorgeous. voice and music. ... and the text. Oh my goodness. If you've ever sent a white rose to anyone you will certainly relate to this piece as the last line states so truthfully and romantically... "for the love that is purest and sweetest has a kiss of desire on the lips". Sumi Jo's pure soprano voice is a perfect pairing with this song. Using a search engine, you will find a wonderful video of this song in it's entirety on VMix.
"Desiderio" - text by Andrea Bocelli (yes .. THAT Bocelli... The one and only drop dead gorgeous Italian heartthrob) ... and speaking of heart throb. If the text/music to this piece doesn't start making your heart throb then it's time to visit the cardiologist. I have been waiting FOREVER to hear this song. Was it worth the wait ? Oh yes. If you check the list of songs for Mr. Bocelli's Statue of Liberty concert quite a number of years ago, you will find "Desiderio" on the list. As is common in live theatre/opera/concerts - everything is always subject to change and this song was not sung. Pity. It just might have been one of the glorious highlights of the evening. As certain foods are paired with the perfect wine, so is the pairing of Bocelli's text and voice with Steven's musical score. Bocelli's gorgeous voice exhibits the pathos needed to bring this lament of unrequited desire to its pinnacle.
"Daydream" - music and text written by Maestro Mercurio.
ah ... to dream. The ultimate "if only". The "please come true". Gino Quilico sings this one ... and it's worth it to hear him float that one note. The song is short... but oh so sweet.
"Good-Night" - text by Jane Taylor ( from the CD liner notes I've learned that this is the same author of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star")
Like Twinkle, Twinkle, this gem is also a lullaby, but there's nothing childish or baby-like about the music. The lyrics express the trust, protection and comfort that every parent, in a perfect world, should give their child. Sumi Jo excels in her vocal interpretation. Again, Maestro Mercurio's score just shines.
"Paternità" - text by Andrea Bocelli
... if only every father could express his feelings for his children in this manner. I'm touched by the text Mr. Bocelli wrote to express his feelings regarding the wondrous birth of his firstborn, Amos. Maestro Mercurio succeeds in pairing his musical score writing talent and expertise to this heartfelt text. I was surprised though that Bocelli did not sing this one. Even so, Marcello Giordani does a fine job of portraying a proud, strong father overcome with the emotions of the miracle of birth.
"Song in Chaos" from a poem written by Eugene O'Neill
... and according to the liner notes, Maestro Mercurio's favorite playwright. Also according to the liner notes, this was written by O'Neill on the occasion of his wife's birthday to express the love and admiration he had for her.
Now, if that's not romantic, I don't know what is. What woman wouldn't cherish being valued by a man who expressed his love for her in this manner ? What a gift Carlotta O'Neill received... and I wonder what Mr. O'Neill and his wife would have had to say if they would have had the pleasure of hearing this poem set to Maestro Mercurio's music. I love Ana Maria Martinez's voice. She is my favorite soprano. This piece is stunning.
"Serenade for Tenor and Orchestra" - text by William M. Hoffman, adapted from a poem by Paul Mackley)
First, a note about the text. In a nutshell, Man loses girl.
"If I'd known what would happen, my once delight..."
... this man wants to go back .. is it possible ?
"It's too late" he sings.
The reminiscence of a love that once was. Bittersweet. Melancholy at times.
- I had a visual experience while listening to this music. The 3/4 time signature that appears early on in the piece and then reappears... I imagined a man, at a fancy ball or party (like the ones you see on an opera stage)... Waltzing with his love and singing the text of this song to her. His reality shattered by mistrust and lies. Love and hate dancing a fine line. Time and thought most convincingly expressed by the changes in musical environment. Ah.... what is it that attracts us to someone who is beautiful and charming on the outside, and dangerously not so on the inside ? ... and would we have made the same choices had we known from the start ?
This is a wonderful sampler CD of ... Many Voices. If you've never had the occasion to hear these folks sing ... here is a wonderful sampling of well seasoned and talented opera singers. I've had the distinct pleasure of hearing some of these people sing on stage. The handsome and talented Gino Quilico in Detroit at The Michigan Opera Theatre. The lovely and talented Ana Maria Martinez who made her Metroplitan Opera debut last fall. I've heard Marcello Giordani at a Houston Opera Gala when he stepped in at the last minute for another tenor who was unable to sing that evening. I've also heard Andrea Bocelli sing not only in concert, but also unamplified onstage in several operas. I particularly enjoyed his Caravadossi in Tosca at the Puccini festival in Torre del Lago, Italy. (and WOW .. what a place to experience Puccini !)
I consider Many Voices a marvelous addition to my classical music collection.
I don't mean to get technical....
Laurie Eckhout | Juneau, AK USA | 09/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"...but this CD is so freakin' Romantic! Okay, not so technical but truthful. I heard rumor from a very biased (but expert) source that this CD was Wonderful. And, wonderful it is. Before I forget, I want to mention the stellar liner notes. I wish others would follow Maestro Mercurio's lead and let those of us who are not musically savvy into the mindset of those who are. Steven does this with down-to-earth comments and insight about the nexus of the pieces that span his earliest career to now. I very much appreciated reading about the details of the poetry and the music. It bring a truly personal aspect to what is a very personal CD of original works, sung by artists that are some of the best in their fields.
A few notes on the songs:
"A White Rose," sung by Sumi Jo sets the tone for the whole CD as far as the 'romance' aspect goes. It sounds like an olde fashioned standard that has weathered the years and come out still sounding fresh. It is so lovely. If you are familiar with Mercurio's live works, it will not surprise you that is HIS original piece. He has the ability to elicit what I consider a trademark 'sweetness' from works that are ripe for it and his own writings are living examples that inherent personal touch that is his own musical persona.
"Desiderio" is the piece Bocelli sings. It is Bocelli's text and Mercurio's music. With Bocelli's heart-wrenching voice and Mercurio's knack for knowing when and when not to add drama, this song is a stand out.
"Daydream" has the distinction of being written by Mercurio, both text and music. The baritone's (Quilico) voice is a welcome juxtaposition of the sweetness of the strings in this piece. It is Uber romantic in sound and text.
"Good-night" the second piece sung by Sumi Jo has an ambiance of utter sweetness and light, but as Steven says in the liner notes, with an aspect of impending "dangers" implied. It is a delight to impart so much meaning from just the music for a novice such as myself, beyond the spoken text. It speaks volumes for Steven's talents.
"Paternita" is sung beautifully by Giordani. This is another of piece with text by Bocelli (& music by Mercurio). The music sticks to a consistent, understated dramatic flair throughout keeping with the text's meaning. It is one of my favorites on the CD.
"Song in Chaos" Sung by Ana Maria Martinez. She is my favorite soprano, so I will have to admit being biased in this case. Nevertheless, she and Steven's collaboration is inarguably one of the best on the CD (if not the best). Martinez's voice has a warm texture that compliments Steven's style. It is a great match and a delight to listen to. Having seen these two in concert many times, I know there is an artistic connection and I think this shines through on the CD. (Biased opinion, of course!)
"Serenade for Tenor and Orchestra" by the tenor Rolando Villazon is the longest most ambitiouus piece on the CD. It is another piece where Steven's ability to relate emotion through music really shines. It is a rollercoaster of "situations." Steven cites in his notes it is a "hindsight" piece which provides a full circle of love's highs and lows to be experiences through words and music. Romantic and bittersweet!
I highly recommend this CD. Maestro Mercurio is a treasure!!
ciao for now,