A Few Odd Notes Among the Beauties
by Leonard Lehrman ©2005
 ’American Portrait: SONGS from the parlor to the stage.’ Peter Halverson, baritone; David Worth, piano. Barking Dog Records BDR 023•  ‘American Song.’ Marcus DeLoach, baritone; Thomas Bagwell, piano. One Soul Records PLR.2004.11.1.
Different but equally valid readings of Samuel Barber’s lush Sure on This Shining Night are featured on both of these baritone recital CDs, as are pieces by Marc Blitzstein. Peter Halverson’s opening rendition of “Emily” from the latter’s Airborne Symphony is gorgeously tender and worth the price of this entire album. Unfortunately the rest of it never quite approaches that high a standard. The voice is lovely, but in the other two Blitzstein songs, “The New Suit” and “Penny Candy,” there are chromatic piano embellishments and a cut, which were certainly not part of the editing with which this writer was graciously credited. The other 20th century songs (about half the album) include Copland’s “At the River,” John Duke’s “In the Fields,” Alfred Hay Malotte’s “Mister Jim,” and two each by Ernest Charles and Lee Hoiby.
Marcus DeLoach’s voice is a less seasoned instrument, but his more adventurous repertoire choices span a much wider gamut, from Charles Griffes to Charles Ives, Irving Fine to Vincent Persichetti, Aaron Copland to Ernst Bacon, and musical theater gems by Arlen, Bernstein, Loesser, Porter and Sondheim. Thomas Bagwell contributes Bernstein and Copland piano solos, as well as energetic accompaniment. The Complete Misanthrope by Emmanuel Rosenberg receives a delightful first recording. “Vanzetti’s Last Statement” from the Marc Blitzstein opera Sacco and Vanzetti—completed by this writer but negligently uncredited on the album—receives its second. For this number, DeLoach could use some work on his Italian accent. (But then this is a strange time for Broadway voices and Italian: listen to the Irish tenor singing in what passes for Italian in Adam Guettel’s beautifully lyrical “A Light in the Piazza.”) Neither of these albums includes texts, but the diction is strong enough to be 99% intelligible and 100% listenable.