American Record Guide

Songs by Michael Finnissy written between 1966 and 198, released under the title A Singular Voice [sic]. The main attraction here is the astounding soprano Clare Lesser, who handles Finnissy’s nearly impossible vocal demands without blinking, picking out seemingly random pitches in ungrateful registers from unsupportive pointillist backgrounds (and sometimes with no background at all), while still maintaining beautiful tone and flawless intonation. The beautiful texts (from Tasso, Petrarch, Swinburne, Whitman, and Tennyson) are almost impossible to understand (the composer’s fault or perhaps intention), but the texts are printed (but still nearly impossible to follow). Some of these are accompanied by clarinet and by the soprano herself on tape. A couple are vocalises, and those are particularly mind-blowing. Cathy Berberian comes to mind, of course; but Ms Lesser is just as imposing, and if you are a fan of hers or of this repertoire this is a must.

Beuk o’ Newcassel Sangs I are transformations of traditional Irish [sic] folk songs into the hyper-modernist style. They are sickly amusing, with gross C-clarinet quarter tones for additional morbidity. Texts and translations.

—Allen Gimbel