Wayne Garcia reviewed Wheeler’s opera The Construction of Boston (Issue 184), noting its remarkable beauty and originality. I’d never heard Wheeler’s music before, but I’m very impressed; his songs are uncluttered, accessible, and witty or dramatic as needed, with notably inventive and pleasing piano accompaniments. The poems are by Mark van Doren, William Blake, Billy Collins, Emily Dickinson, and others—good choices all. Wheeler says, “To me, songs are simply the most sensuous kind of fun one can have with the combination of words and music,” and this disc is an excellent display of his work, a playground of fantasy, laughter, violence, humility, divinity, and the logical extremes of sappy love poetry. The singers—Susanna Phillips, Krista River, Joseph Kaiser, William Sharp—display consistent intelligence and musicality, as well as admirably clear enunciation (a good thing, since Naxos doesn’t include printed texts of the poems). Donald Bergman is a perfectly unflappable pianist, never overstating anything, a master of the art of accompanying. The sound is vivid and dynamic, though there’s an occasional fuzziness to some fricatives and sibilants.
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