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Album review: 'Songs for a Day'


Aristéa Mellos

'Songs for a Day'

Xenofone Records

"Songs for a Day," the newest set of recorded works by Australian composer and Eastman School of Music alumnus Aristéa Mellos, is a fresh and earnest homage to late-19th and early-20th-century classical music.

Beginning with "Prelude" for solo piano, Mellos strongly evokes the Impressionistic music of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, with plenty of whole-tone harmonic structures, urgent rhythms, and ephemeral timbres. Meanwhile, Mellos's selection of poetry is full of deep existential feeling. The best example if this is the four pieces that make up "Songs of Resignation," with beautiful but shifty chord progressions set to Greek poet C.P. Cavafy's mournful words about a once-promising life passing by without fulfillment.

Soprano Helen Zhibing Huang sings with exceptional clarity and dramatic, yet light tones — giving the highly lyrical melodies a freeing, airy quality that belies the dark loneliness hinted at in the poetry. Pianist Ada Arumeh Kim Lowery's step out beyond her supporting role as accompanist to deliver key phrases with added intensity and import.