Henry Fogel review: That Star in the Picture

© 2023 Fanfare Magazine. Reprinted by permission

JAMES ADLER What About Tomorrow?1 Pie Jesu2 . Beautiful Garden3 . Growing4 .
Hope is the thing with feathers5 . Dreams6 . Beyond Night7 . That Star in the Picture8

• James Adler (pn); 8Shana Farr (mez); 1Elizaveta Ulakhovich (sop); 2Victoria Livengood (mez);
3,6Michael Buchanan (ten); 4Kennedy Kanagawa (ten); 2Fran Novak (cl); 1,5,7Perry Sook (bar); 3,4,8Denise Koncelik (fl); 8Brian Shaw (ob); 1,2Kyle Walker (hn); 2,5,6,8Adam Fisher (vc) • ALBANY 1936 (31:17)

Composer James Adler identifies this disc as “an homage to Stephen Sondheim’s
contributions to Musical Theater.” Adler is an American pianist-composer, born in 1950, who
has composed in a wide range of genres. This disc features songs that are either excerpts from
musical theater works or art songs in the style of musical theater. Even the works excerpted from
larger music theater works have been re-arranged for small forces for this disc.

Adler possesses a genuine melodic gift. Pie Jesu, originally the seventh movement from
Memento mori: An AIDS Requiem, works beautifully here in a sensitive arrangement for mezzo-
soprano, clarinet, horn, cello, and piano. Victoria Livengood, who sang it in the 2001 recording
of the full work (also on Albany) shapes the music well, though her voice doesn’t have the
freshness of youth that it did two decades ago. Her dynamic shading, however, is particularly

What About Tomorrow? was specifically arranged for the singers on this disc: Elizaveta
Ulakhovich, and her husband baritone Perry Sook, who is also a sports reporter on New York
City’s WPIX! French hornist Kyle Walker adds zest to an energetic, committed performance.

Michael Buchanan and flutist Denise Koncelik are very touching in “Beautiful Garden,”
a song originally heard in the musical Reflections. The influence of Sondheim is particularly
strong here, and is not far from the surface of many of the songs. That is not, however, a bad
thing–James Adler is not the first nor will he be the last composer to be influenced by important

A quality that is found in contemporary song literature less frequently than one might
wish is wit, and it is on full display here in Growing. Mae Richard’s lyrics and Adler’s music go
hand-in-glove. The composer’s presence at the piano in all songs assures committed and
sensitive performances.

This is a lovely collection of lighter songs, and it provides good entertainment. I find the
recorded sound a bit aggressive and over-reverberant, and 31:17 is short duration from a CD, but
I presume some will be interested individual tracks. Henry Fogel

Four stars: Entertaining songs by an American composer of music theater works