October 2005

Gwyneth Walker - The Sun Is Love
Michelle Areyzaga, Soprano; Jamie Shaak, Piano
Proteus Entertainment 0015
Format: CD
Released: 2005

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

I don’t know how often it is that one gets to review new music by one’s neighbor, but I’ve been given that opportunity. Gwyneth Walker -- composer, Brown University and Hartt School of Music grad, and now Vermont dairy farmer -- lives less than an hour away from me, so I was looking forward to hearing contemporary classical songs from one of my home state’s adopted daughters.

The song cycles on this CD are based on carefully chosen poems by e.e. cummings, Ms. Walker, May Swenson, and Jelaluddin Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks), and are performed by soprano Michelle Areyzaga and pianist Jamie Shaak. This disc features musical numbers that have the feel of classical arias and a folksong influence that, when mixed together, create something that's quite intoxicating.

Ms. Areyzaga’s voice floats above the piano, weaving in and out of the songs/poems, always drawing the listener in. Ms. Shaak’s piano accompaniment is superbly rendered -- there when needed, yet still a part of the proceedings when allowing the singer space.

The recording of this Proteus Entertainment CD was handled well. The piano sounds real, with good tone and size. The voice is rendered properly, but it lacks that final bit of three-dimensionality (that SACD does so easily) to be totally believable as anything but a recording.