By Kenneth Jones
07 Mar 2006
The album, featuring fresh orchestrations by Larry Hochman (Spamalot), was recorded in 2005 in New York City. Paris native Georges, an international singer and actress, performed December Songs to great acclaim as a one-woman show during a three-month engagement at the Theatre du Renard in Paris in winter 2004-05.
Yeston attended the Paris performances and was moved to write "Strange" as an encore for Georges. The song, not part of the cycle, gets its recording world premiere on the disc.
The disc boasts two versions of the cycle — 10 tracks in English and 10 in French. This marks the French-language recording premiere. A color CD booklet offers the complete lyrics in English and French. The French translation is by Boris Bergman.
Orchestrator Hochman (Spamalot, A Class Act, Jane Eyre) previously scored two of the selections from December Songs on PS Classics' 2003 release, "The Maury Yeston Songbook."
December Songs was commissioned by Carnegie Hall for its centenary season and introduced by Andrea Marcovicci at Weill Recital Hall. A piano and voice recording of Marcovicci's work is no longer widely available. Harolyn Blackwell also recorded the cycle on a 1997 disc ("Strange Hurt"), which has been discontinued.
In Schubert's Winterreise ("Winter Journey"), a young man wanders through the Austrian forest; in December Songs, it's a young woman in Central Park. In 10 songs, Tony Award-winner Yeston (Nine, Titanic, Grand Hotel) "tells a story of love lost, of the struggle to move on, and of the resilience of the human spirit," according to PS Classics co-founder Tommy Krasker, who produces the new CD.
At the time of its premiere in 1991, Yeston wrote, "Die Winterreise is the greatest song cycle ever written. It has a contemporaneity that never goes away, and what I hope to do is to create a modern equivalent, to paraphrase the ethos of Die Winterreise, with its ambivalence, its major/minor duality, and its natural images that are metaphors of the character's internal state."
In 2002, December Songs was reconceived as a ballet by Lynn Taylor Corbett and presented at The Carolina Ballet. December Songs received premieres in 2004 in the United Kingdom, in Germany, and in France (the latter starring Georges, with Stan Cramer).
This new recording is drawn and expanded from those Paris performances.
Paris-born Isabelle Georges first performed at the world-famous Cabaret des Champs-Elysées at the age of 15, and soon after appeared in a string of musical productions that included Marilyn de Montreuil, Chère Daisy and La Crise Est Finie.
At 22, she was featured in the long-running Parisian production of Barnum, and leading roles quickly followed in Michel Legrand's Le Passe Muraille, Singin' in the Rain (Chantant sous la Pluie, for which she received the coveted Molière Award), Offenbach's La Perichole, and Cole Porter's Nymph Errant at The Chichester Festival. In 1998, DreamWorks gave her the role of Tzipporah in "The Prince of Egypt" (the animated feature), and two years later, she played Kate McGowan in the French-language European premiere of Maury Yeston's Titanic, the Musical. She works frequently in television and film, performs with the Yiddish orchestra Sirba Octet, and is preparing a new album with jazz pianist Rene Urtreger.
Twice Grammy-nominated (for its Broadway cast recordings of Assassins and Nine: The Musical), PS Classics, co-founded by Tommy Krasker & Philip Chaffin, is known for its commitment to theatre music and American popular song. Its diverse catalog of show albums, solo CDs and songbook recordings includes cast albums of The Frogs, Fiddler on the Roof, A Year With Frog and Toad, My Life With Albertine, Zanna, Don't! and First Lady Suite; solo albums by Jessica Molaskey, Christine Andreas, and Rebecca Luker; and composer-related discs boasting Billy Strayhorn, Jerome Moross, and Jason Robert Brown. PS Classics is distributed exclusively by Image Entertainment.
For more information, visit www.psclassics.com.