NO ENEMY BUT WINTER AND ROUGH WEATHER
Even the most fearful of the cold will draw warmth from Joe Summer’s comforting No Enemy But Winter and Rough Weather, the sixth album honoring The Shakespeare Concert Series, of which he is founder and executive director. Track 1 is Summer’s own Concert Overture for Piano, an icy introduction performed by SangYoung Kim. Following are two settings of “Under the Greenwood Tree.” Track 2 is the inviting setting by William Walton performed by soprano Kathryn Guthrie and pianist John McGinn. Alluring, too, is Track 3 the Erich Wolfgang Korngold setting of the text performed by Kim and mezzo-soprano Thea Lobo. Kim stays at the piano for Track 4—“When Birds Do Sing”—also by Korngold; Guthrie delivers this spritely tune.
Track 5, Thomas Morley’s “It Was a Lover and His Lass” echoes the delight of the previous song, but with a harpsichord’s accompaniment (Ian Watson) and the agile voice of tenor Luke Grooms.
Spring darkens with the entry of Track 6, Peter Warlock’s “Sleep,” performed by Kellie Van Horn (mezzo-soprano) and the Arcadia Players, though Thomas Arne’s “Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind” (Track 7) test’s winter’s fate through the regal sound of Paul Soper’s baritone voice and Ian Watson’s dexterous harpsichord playing. Korngold’s setting of the same text (Track 8) is cool and collected but stern, nonetheless, with the voice of Thea Lobo, warning winter (SangYoung Kim, piano).
Tracks 9 and 10 are highlights from the classic Elizabethan Songs by Dominic Argento that has long been a favorite of art song lovers. The spry “Winter,” is perfectly navigated by tenor Luke Grooms, and the complex, but exquisite “Dirge” is elegantly delivered by soprano Andrea Chenowith. Both are accompanied by the Arcadia Players.
Donald Busarow’s voice, French horn, and piano trio “Death Be Not Proud” (Kathryn Guthrie, Kevin Owen, SangYoung Kim respectively) is Track 11 and warmth’s stately elegy in this program.
Compositions by Joe Summer close the album. First his provoking, “Sonnet LX,” (David Salsbery Fry, bass; Victor Cayres, piano) in Track 12; then “O! That This Too, Too Solid Flesh” performed by Kim and tenor Neal Ferreira in Track 13. Following, in Track 14, is “Beseech, You Sir, Be Merry” from Summer’s chamber opera of Shakespeare’s Tempest, skillfully interpreted by players Jeremiah Johnson (Antonio), baritone; James Maddalena (Alonso), baritone; Ethan Bremner (Sebastian), tenor; Katherine Pracht (Ariel), mezzo-soprano; and The Shakespeare Concerts ensemble. Lobo and Kim reappear in Track 15, “The Quality of Mercy,” where precipitation (late winter’s rain) is represented in the descending arpeggios of the piano and the falling phrases of the melody. Ending the album is Track 16, Joe Summer’s setting of “When That I Was A Little Boy,” in which Grooms and the Arcadia Players denounce winter once and for all. When the listener discovers the rich artistry and clever programming inherent in this recording, she will immediately want to hear the previous five albums in The Shakespeare Concert Series available on the Navona label.