Cherry Grove Music Review (February 2021)


Curt Cacioppo: Illuminations
Kristina Bachrach, William Sharp et al.

Illuminations, an MSR Classics CD recording of compositions by Curt Cacioppo, offers an intense listening experience, featuring “I, madly struggling, cry,” an amalgam of passages on immigration taken from Walt Whitman’s poetry and a couple of inscriptions on the Statue of Liberty. This composition awakens in our minds the political debate raging about immigration in the nation today but transformed in more positive terms by the words of Whitman written about 150 years ago, here sung powerfully by baritone William Sharp, accompanied by Wan-Chi Su on piano. As such, this work is an affirmation why many of our ancestors along with some of our neighbors and friends came to the United States, and why others also seek to immigrate. From time to time we debate whether art as music, literature or painting should exist for its own sake or have a meaningful purpose. With regard to this composition, the purpose is inherent, as well as in another on this recording created to focus on “opera’s negative type casting of a woman,” a contemporary spotlighted issue. It is the subject of a melodramatic poetic text written by Luigi Cerantola, set to music by Cacioppo. To explain how he created his text to make that point, Cerantola provides notes in the CD booklet referring to several well-known operas. The words are sung by Kristina Bachrach, accompanied by Cacioppo himself on piano. The CD booklet provides the text in Italian along with an English translation, which is very helpful in absorbing the work. Cerantola also provided the words for three other Cacioppo compositions, sung by Bachrach, which begin the CD. The recording, in addition, includes two short, but potent, piano pieces, Paean, played by Cacioppo, regarding a 50th wedding anniversary celebration, and Notturno Elidiano, played by Debra Lew Harder, which begins musically in an operatic context and evolves into a reverie about Frédéric Chopin. Overall, this recording does not lend itself to casual or background listening. If a listener is willing to take time out to appreciate these compositions, that person will be rewarded substantially by the thought-provoking poetics.

Joel C. Thompson