"While in a purely theoretical world one can decry the ghettoization of music according to an arbitrary classification, the truth is that without programs like this one (in fact a reissue of three records issued in the 80s along with a tape from a CBC recital made about the same time), a lot of this music would remain unrecorded and even more unknown than it already is. The first disc offers piano music, the second a mixed recital of songs and the CBC tape mentioned earlier comprising the music by Paradis, Clara Schumann, Thea Musgrave, and D'un jardin clair by Lili Boulanger.
The piano disc is quite strong. It opens with single pieces by Vercoe, Brockman, Diener, and Calloway, all of which offer variations on Prokofiev meets Henry Cowell (lots of plunking, muting, strumming, and otherwise banging around inside the piano, as well as the more usual method of playing). It is genuinely hard to get a grasp of what a composer may be about, based on a single work running 10 minutes or less, but all the music is fun and played with colorful enthusiasm by Rosemary Platt. The first big work is Ruth Lomon's Five Ceremonial Masks from 1980, which runs about 20 minutes and gives a more complete portrait of its composer. The music is decidedly modernist, again with extensive use made of the inside of the piano, which makes it a ritualized riot of color. The selection of music by Ruth Crawford Seeger gives all but one of her not-extensive works for piano. Written mostly before she was thirty, the music moves in a late Scriabinesque world of atonal late Romanticism. Although not significantly different harmonically from the rest of the music on the first disc, the romantic sweep at the heart of her composing sets it apart somewhat from the rest of the music.
The music on the second disc is much more mixed as to quality. Twenty years ago, Lili Boulanger and Clara Schumann were probably the most important cause célèbres among composers who were felt not to have received their due because of their sex. Boulanger (the sister of Nadia, who ultimately taught even more composers than Milton Babbitt) is much more common on disc now, understandably so, given the very impressive quality of her music. Still these splendid performances of three of her songs would be welcome at any time; the little piano miniature, D'un jardin clair, is also quite fine. Clara Schumann, on the other hand, had the misfortune to be married to one of the greatest composers of her time and her work almost inevitably suffers from comparison. Her works are also much more available now than previously, including two complete editions of the songs which is where, I think, her gifts find their most complete expression. The piano music heard here is small beer, as is the miniature from Maria Theresa von Paradis. Rhian Samuel's Songs of Earth and Air are not performed complete—the length restrictions of the original LP format are presumably to blame. Still, I suspect most listeners will find that this rather tedious exercise in semitonal recitative, narration, and arioso, at nearly 16 minutes, outstays its welcome. Sharon Mabry sings with lovely tone and utterly clear diction and Platt accompanies ardently. On the other hand, the set of five settings of Goethe by Mary Howe are very welcome. Howe's music is intensely conservative but is no worse for that; hearing her songs performed this well is a treat. The final vocal selection is the deeply silly Irreveries of Sappho by Elizabeth Vercoe, which confirms the positive impression made by her opening Fantasy on the first disc. The Musgrave piece is worth knowing, but would have made more of an impression in the context of more of her music.
The performances are excellent throughout and the recording quality holds up well after 20 years. There is a lot of music here worth hearing and on that count recommended to the curious."