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*** 1/2 "To The Soul: Thomas Hampson Sings The Poetry Of Walt Whitman" (emi)

May 25, 1997|Daniel Cariaga

Hampson researched more than 220 song-settings of Whitman texts for this recording, choosing 22 by North American and British composers. The irony is that, as well-known as are these songwriters, as beautifully delineated as Hampson makes this music and however solid the accompaniment from pianist Craig Rutenberg, the total musical content doesn't live up to Whitman's poetry. These words command and require stronger inspirations than Charles Ives, Vaughan Williams, Paul Hindemith and Ernst Bacon, among others, found in them. There are touching and unpredictable moments, however, in songs written by Robert Strassburg (whose "Prayer of Columbus" may be the single most successful piece in this collection), Kurt Weill, Michael Tilson Thomas and Ned Rorem, to mention four, showing that sometimes passionate words and descriptive music do converge, producing art that stands on its own.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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